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What is a repetitive stress injury?

Are you one of the many workers in New Jersey who suffer from the effects of a work-related repetitive stress injury? According to Medical News Today, this common condition goes by many different names: regional musculoskeletal disorder, occupational overuse syndrome, cumulative trauma disorder and repetitive motion injuries, to name a few. 

Regardless of what you call it, however, the causes are the same: repetitive tasks, vibrations, sustained or awkward positions and forceful exertions. As long as there has been manual labor, there have been repetitive stress injuries, although the first description of a repetitive stress injury in a medical text came from an 18th-century Italian physician who described 20 categories of injury among industrial workers. 

A repetitive stress injury may be specific or nonspecific. Nonspecific RSI usually relates to work-related nerve damage. Physicians refer to nonspecific RSI as Type 2. Type 1 RSI affects the musculoskeletal system, causing specific tendons or muscles to become inflamed or swollen. 

Symptoms of RSI vary depending on what type it is and what is causing it. You may experience a loss of strength or sensation. You may feel pain, tenderness or a pulsating/throbbing sensation in the affected area. Tingling and numbness are common, particularly in the hand and arm. 

There are steps that you can take to prevent yourself from developing an RSI or, if you already have one, to prevent it from becoming any worse. 

  • Standing up frequently to stretch the arms, fingers and back
  • Taking regular breaks from the repetitive task
  • Looking up and staring momentarily at distant objects to rest eye muscles
  • Refraining from smoking
  • Maintaining general good health with diet and exercise.

Conservative (nonsurgical) treatment options for RSI include physical therapy, application of ice packs or heat packs and steroid injections if you experience inflammation. Medications such as muscle relaxants or anti-inflammatories are sometimes effective. Surgery can sometimes correct problems with specific nerves or tendons as a last resort. 

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.