WEAR and TEAR injuries, often referred to as repetitive strain injuries, are a category of cumulative trauma disorders arising from extended repetitive, high-impact, or unnatural hand or body movements that can lead to damaged muscles, tendons, and nerves in the affected area. This can result in pain, weakness, numbness, or loss of fine motor control.
Office workers have one of the highest rates of WEAR and TEAR injuries across all occupations. Fine hand movements, such as typing and using a computer mouse, that are repeated hours on end on a daily basis, eventually strain the muscles and tendons of the forearms, wrists, and fingers. This results in countless microscopic tears that are never given the chance to fully heal. These injured areas contract, which reduces the range of motion needed in order to perform their normal movements. Additionally, the tissues covering the tendons cannot maintain adequate lubrication, resulting in inflammation and pinched nerves that leads to loss of feeling, tingling feelings, or tenderness. Eventually, these issues lead to lasting, irreversible conditions that inhibit the individual’s ability to perform their work obligations.
WEAR and TEAR Risk Factors
The three main factors that make WEAR and TEAR injuries more likely are incorrect posture, poor technique, and overuse. Additionally, there are a multitude of other risk factors. Although they may not directly cause WEAR and TEAR conditions, various factors can significantly increase your susceptibility of developing one in the future, including the following:
- Working on a computer in excess of four hours per day
- Lack of regular breaks throughout the day
- Not getting regular exercise
- Working in low temperatures
- Working in a high-stress environment
- Having arthritis, diabetes, or a related medical problem
- Being overweight
- Living an inactive, unhealthy, or stressful life outside of work
- Not getting adequate sleep
Do not wait until the pain and functional loss of the affected area becomes severe. As soon as you notice that your work capacity or quality of life are affected by a suspected WEAR and TEAR injury, seek medical attention immediately. As discussed below, even if you are experiencing mild discomfort and dysfunction, your condition can rapidly degenerate if you do not give the affected area a chance to heal.
Common Symptoms of RSI
The main warning sign of WEAR and TEAR is pain or discomfort in the upper extremities, including the fingers, hands, wrists, arms, and shoulders. However, be mindful that you can have a serious repetitive use injury without feeling any pain. The following checklist can assist you in determining if you have a WEAR and TEAR injury:
- Do you experience excessive fatigue or tiredness?
- Do you have weakness in the hands or arms?
- Have you had a tingling or numb feeling in your extremities?
- Do your hands feel heavy?
- Do you feel uncoordinated or clumsy?
- Are your hands chronically cold?
- Do your extremities feel hypersensitive to touch?
- Do you avoid using the injured body part?
Effects of WEAR and TEAR Injuries
If you develop a WEAR and TEAR injury and do not take the adequate corrective and rehabilitative actions, there can be severe negative consequences. Your daily functionality can be curtailed, leading to a loss of independence as well as an inability to work. Here are just a few examples of the wide range of diagnosable medical conditions that can result from repetitive use:
- Bursitis: Occurs when the fluid-filled area near the joints of the knee, elbow, or shoulder gets inflamed and swells
- Tendonitis: Inflammation of tendons and reduced range of movement
- Tendinosis: When the collagen cells degenerate inside the tendons from being overused
- Carpal Tunnel: Occurs when the nerves passing along the anterior of the wrist get compressed
- Raynaud’s Disease: The blood vessels in the affected area constrict when they become cold or experience stress – triggered by work entailing vibrating machinery (such as operating a jackhammer).
- Intersection Syndrome: A debilitating inflammation of the forearm muscles induced by repetitive flexion and tension of the wrist and hand muscles that is often seen in weightlifters, rowers, and skiers.
- Medial Epicondylitis (“Golfer’s Elbow”): This impedes the interior of the lower forearm, caused by frequent twisting motions.
Be Proactive – Tips to Prevent WEAR and TEAR Injuries
The best way to prevent the occurrence of WEAR and TEAR conditions is to take a proactive approach by implementing responsible daily practices that counteract the adverse work conditions many individuals experience on a daily basis. Here are just a few ideas that you can work into your routine to prevent the onset of WEAR and TEAR injuries before they become serious health concerns:
- Take Frequent Breaks: Try to get up from your computer or workstation every hour or so to stretch your tight muscles and tendons and give your eyes a break from staring at the computer screen. Physicians advise that several short breaks spread throughout the day are more effective as a preventative measure than a few longer ones. If possible, a good rule of thumb is to take a ten minute break every hour.
- Practice Good Posture: If you struggle to maintain good posture and are constantly slouched over, consult with a physical therapist or trainer to learn exercises that can strengthen your core muscles. For workers that spend the majority of the day seated, your thighs should be either level or angled downward slightly and your feet should remain flat on the floor. Keep your shoulders relaxed and your upper arms by your side.
- Ergonomics: Make sure your chair and workstation are properly aligned at the correct height and have adequate lumbar support. For office workers, your keyboard should be level or be tilted slightly away from you (so the top row of keys is lower than the bottom). When you type, make sure you keep your wrists straight (not twisted in or out) and flat (not bent up or down).
Experienced New Jersey WEAR and TEAR Attorneys
Are you a worker in the Cape May Court House area experiencing the tell-tale signs and symptoms of one or more WEAR and TEAR injuries? The slow onset of these medical conditions present a challenge in obtaining workers’ compensation and can be frustrating for individuals who find themselves unable to work due to the pain.
Fortunately, the skilled and vastly experienced attorneys of Petro Cohen, P.C. can assist you in developing a personalized workers’ compensation strategy so you can obtain the support you deserve and need to improve your quality of life.
The reality is that the outcome of your case will largely depend on the skill of your New Jersey work injury attorney and the quality of your legal representation. Your attorney’s level of education, experience, track record, legal abilities, and reputation matter – big time. When considering your representation, Select Excellence. The head of Petro Cohen’s Workers’ Compensation Department, Frank Petro, along with firm attorneys, Suzanne Holz Meola, Terri Hiles, and Daniel Rosenthal, have more than 150 years of combined experience, having successfully handled thousands of litigated workers’ comp cases throughout New Jersey. This experience and winning track record means that you are going to have a skilled New Jersey work injury lawyer by your side every step of the way.
You work hard, let us do the same for you. Call us today or contact us online for a free and confidential case evaluation.