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Overexertion and Repetitive Strain Injuries in the Workplace

In this post, Roxanne Mathews, our Registered Physiotherapist and Certified Athletic Trainer, discusses common workplace injuries: overexertion and repetitive strain injuries.

Overexertion and repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) are different from most other workplace injuries in that they don’t typically result from one single event. RSIs generally build up over time.

Patients do not usually remember any traumatic events (such as a fall, slip, or impact), nor any one time when they may have been injured. They commonly come to see a health practitioner because of muscle or joint soreness that “has been there for a while,” and that may not be improving – or may be getting worse.

As the name implies, RSIs develop as a result of repetitive, forceful, and/or awkward movements, usually occurring over one particular joint or muscular area. Symptoms can include discomfort, pain, weakness, limited range, and sometimes tingling and numbness.  RSIs are common in factories, administrative offices, home maintenance companies (builders, painters), and construction, among other repetitive jobs.

How to Prevent a Repetitive Strain Injury

There are some measures that can be taken to limit the prevalence of RSIs.  These include:

  • Take regular rest breaks. This does not mean you need to totally stop working; you can switch from one task to another one that does not involve the same joints or muscle groups.
  • Take the time to properly stretch the involved muscles.
  • Move around and change positions often, particularly with sedentary jobs.
  • Use proper ergonomic lifting and push/pull techniques.

By their nature, some jobs are repetitive, and they require a lot of endurance and strain on the part of the worker. We recognize that employees often feel that they don’t have much of a “say” in their job responsibilities, and that simply they need to continue the repetitiveness in order to keep their job. This is an understandable concern; however, if not managed appropriately, repetitiveness over time will almost always lead to ailment, frustration, and injury of the worker. 

Physiotherapy Services Help Prevent and Treat Repetitive Strain Injuries

If you choose, a physiotherapist can help relieve the stresses of your workplace by educating you on different positions, stretches, and basic exercises that can help keep you healthy in your job. We can also suggest certain modifications to your workstation that may help limit, prevent, and manage some cases of RSI.

If you are experiencing muscle or joint soreness that you believe may be caused in whole or in part by your job, you should report this to your supervisor. If your workplace is covered by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), you may be entitled to rehabilitative healthcare that can aid you in recovery and education. 

The WSIB is not only for traumatic, one-event injuries. In fact, according to the Ontario Ministry of Labour, RSIs accounted for 43% of lost-time WSIB claims in 2007. If you have a concern, report it. Employers generally care for their employees, as lost workers and lost time cost workplaces millions of dollars each year. So, they would rather keep you healthy!  We would, too!

>> BodyMend offers rehabilitative healthcare services, including physiotherapy. We can help you navigate through the requirements of WSIB. Book your initial appointment today!

Like this? You might also like:
Promoting Pain-Free Posture: Proper Ergonomics for the Office Workplace
Slips, Trips, and Falls in the Workplace
Your Initial Physiotherapy Visit: What to Expect