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Repetitive Strain Injury: No Win, No Fee


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What is a Repetitive Strain Injury?

A Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is a type of injury that occurs as a result of repetitive movements, overuse, or prolonged awkward postures. It commonly affects the muscles, tendons, and nerve conduction in areas such as the wrists, hands, arms, shoulders, neck, and back. RSIs are often associated with activities that involve repetitive motions, such as performing assembly line work.

Common symptoms of RSIs include pain, stiffness, weakness, numbness, tingling, and swelling in the affected area. These symptoms may worsen with continued use of the affected body part and can interfere with daily activities and work performance.

Prevention of RSIs involves ergonomic adjustments to workstations and equipment, taking regular breaks to stretch and rest, improving your posture, and using proper techniques for repetitive tasks. Treatment typically includes rest, therapy with an occupational therapist, ice or heat therapy, physical therapy, pain management, and in severe cases, surgery may be necessary.

It’s important to address RSIs promptly to prevent them from becoming chronic conditions that can significantly impact quality of life and work productivity.

What Causes RSI?

There are a variety of ways in which repetitive activity can affect the body, causing RSI. Incorrect and poor posture while sitting down for extended periods can be a contributing factor, whilst improper tool use, typing and heavy lifting can all play a part. The individuals at the greatest risk are those who have to carry out the same movements and activities as part of their job every day.

Anyone whose occupation involves excessive, repetitive and forced activity should be mindful of how long they spend performing these tasks, and they should remember to take regular breaks.

The main factors that contribute to the development of RSIs include:

  1. Repetitive Movements: Performing the same motion repeatedly, such as typing on a keyboard, using a mouse, or gripping tools, can strain the muscles and tendons involved, leading to injury over time.
  2. Forceful Exertions: Applying excessive force during tasks, such as lifting heavy objects or using power tools that require a significant amount of pressure, can strain the muscles and increase the risk of injury.
  3. Awkward Postures: Maintaining awkward or uncomfortable positions for long periods of time, such as slouching while sitting at a desk or twisting the body while lifting, can put stress on muscles and joints, leading to strain and injury.
  4. Poor Ergonomics: Inadequate ergonomic setup of workstations or equipment can contribute to RSIs. Factors such as improper chair height, poorly positioned computer monitors, or poorly designed tools can increase the strain on muscles and tendons.
  5. Lack of Rest or Recovery: Insufficient rest breaks during repetitive tasks or failure to allow adequate time for recovery between sessions can increase the risk of developing RSIs.
  6. Individual Factors: Factors such as age, overall health, fitness level, and pre-existing conditions like arthritis or tendonitis can influence the likelihood of developing RSIs.

It’s often a combination of these factors rather than a single cause that leads to the development of RSIs. Identifying and addressing these risk factors through ergonomic interventions, proper training, and lifestyle modifications can help prevent RSIs and promote musculoskeletal health.

Types of RSI

There are several types of Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs), each affecting different parts of the body. Some common types include:

  1. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome affect the wrist and hand. It occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the hand, becomes compressed or squeezed at the wrist. Symptoms include numbness, tingling, weakness, or pain in the hand and fingers.
  2. Cubital tunnel syndrome: Also known as ulnar nerve entrapment, is a condition that affects the ulnar nerve as it passes through a tunnel of tissue on the inside of the elbow called the cubital tunnel. The ulnar nerve runs from the neck down the arm and into the hand, providing sensation to the little finger and half of the ring finger, as well as controlling some of the small muscles in the hand.
  3. Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis): Tennis elbow affects the tendons in the forearm that attach to the lateral epicondyle, a bony bump on the outside of the elbow. It is typically caused by repetitive gripping and wrist movements. Symptoms include pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow and forearm.
  4. Golfer’s Elbow (Medial Epicondylitis): Similar to tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow affects the tendons on the inside of the elbow, near the medial epicondyle. It is caused by repetitive motions involving wrist flexion and gripping. Symptoms include pain and tenderness on the inside of the elbow and forearm.
  5. Rotator Cuff Tendinitis: This RSI affects the rotator cuff muscles and tendons in the shoulder. It is often caused by repetitive overhead movements or activities that require lifting and reaching. Symptoms include pain, weakness, and limited range of motion in the shoulder.
  6. Trigger Finger (Stenosing Tenosynovitis): Trigger finger affects the tendons in the fingers and thumb, causing them to catch or lock when bent. It is caused by repetitive gripping motions or activities that strain the tendons. Symptoms include pain, stiffness, and clicking or popping sensations when moving the affected finger.
  7. De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis: This RSI affects the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist. It is caused by repetitive thumb movements or activities that involve grasping and pinching. Symptoms include pain, swelling, and difficulty moving the thumb and wrist.

These are just a few examples of RSIs, and there are many other types that can affect different parts of the body. The common thread among all RSIs is that they are typically caused by repetitive movements, overuse, or sustained awkward postures.

RSI Symptoms

Symptoms of repetitive strain injuries vary depending on the affected limbs and tissues. In the majority of cases, the victim will experience short bursts of excruciating pain when trying to perform a routine, repetitive task. In typists or copywriters, this may affect the wrists, hands and forearms. For those who do a lot of manual handling, they may experience these symptoms throughout their arms, shoulders, neck and back.

Aside from pain, it is quite common for sufferers of RSI injuries to also experience weakness in the affected limb as well as a lack of endurance, so reduced grip strength can also occur. Loss of sensation and numbness can also occur.

For anyone who suffers from an occupational RSI, it can be stressful and frustrating. It can have severe implications for their work and career, and it can also make their day-to-day lives both painful and miserable. If you feel that you are affected by a repetitive strain injury after seeing the symptoms, you should speak to a GP immediately and begin making a claim for RSI compensation.

Occupational RSI Treatment

In the majority of early stage RSI cases, anti-inflammatory medications combined with passive forms of physical therapy will be prescribed to help reduce pain. A lot of rest will be recommended, whilst splinting and massage may also be suggested. Low-grade RSIs can occasionally resolve themselves if caught early. There are some RSIs, however, that may require more aggressive intervention, such as steroid injections and surgery. The effects and symptoms of these can persist for years.

A good exercise regime has been shown to minimise the risk of developing an RSI. Doctors have been known to recommend that RSI sufferers engage in specific strengthening exercises.

Preventing further injury and the exacerbation of symptoms is key in aiding recovery. Understanding the causes of RSI can help you to avoid future injury. Where your RSI was caused by work, preventative measures should be instated to prevent further injury and to protect other members of staff. There should already be protective methods in force, but where an employer fails in their duty to protect staff, further protective measures will be required.

Employer’s Duties

Employers have a legal duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to prevent work-related RSIs and to stop any existing cases from getting worse.

Where your employer has been negligent in their responsibility to protect you, and where you have suffered as a result, they may be liable to pay compensation. It is essential for employers to thoroughly assess workplace risks to identify problem areas. Where possible risks arise, your employer should alter the workspace to minimise these risks or provide additional equipment and training to protect you.

Where employers do not respond to requests for better suited equipment, or where they make no effort to accommodate RSI conditions, they increase the odds of staff contracting an RSI or making them worse. These actions can have disastrous, long term effects upon the health and well-being of staff which can affect their work performance and general job satisfaction.

Occupational repetitive strain injuries can be incredibly frustrating, particularly as the symptoms are non-specific. So you may even suffer from these symptoms without having been given an official RSI diagnosis. If you work within a role that necessitates the completion of prolonged, repetitive tasks it can negatively affect your job performance, whilst reducing the quality of your everyday life. Some symptoms will resolve themselves, but many will last for years and can be debilitating.

How can Beacon Law assist?

If you think that you may be affected by a work induced RSI then you should speak with a specialist industrial disease solicitor so that they can begin compiling your case. If you instruct us to handle your RSI compensation claim, we will collate all of the required evidence and medical proof to substantiate your claim whilst providing expert support and advice throughout the process; saving you from all the hard work.

We’ve dealt with a variety of RSI claims in the past, and so we understand how difficult it can be for sufferers to take this important and decisive step.

To begin making your claim, please call one of our specialist industrial disease solicitors on 08000 886644 or complete our online claim form and we will call you back.

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