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Cumulative trauma disorders, and how to prevent them

Each year, thousands of workers in Mississippi and across the U.S. suffer from cumulative trauma disorders. Sometimes known as repetitive stress injuries, CTDs are caused by more than repetitive motions; they can be the result of continual vibrations, muscle overuse and bad posture.

Most CTDs affect the muscles and tendons and are thus classified as soft tissue injuries. The most well-known example of a CTD is carpal tunnel syndrome, where the median nerve in the wrist is pinched as a result of prolonged and forceful pressure or vibration. Then there is tendonitis, where the tendons become inflamed or irritated. Those whose work involves a lot of typing or lifting and carrying are at risk for these conditions.

Other examples of CTDs include bursitis, or the inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs (bursae) that cushion bones and muscles; disc herniation, which occurs in the spine; and synovitis, or the inflammation of the synovial membrane lining the joints. Pain, swelling and numbness are common symptoms of CTDs.

Employers can prevent CTDs by focusing on ergonomics: that is, how to design the work environment for the workers’ benefit. They should try to eliminate any unnecessary stress on workers’ bodies, for example by modifying office chairs and putting things closer in reach. Employers could consider having a functional job site analysis done as well.

CTDs do fall under workers’ compensation law, though they develop over long periods of time. Victims who file for benefits may be reimbursed for all medical expenses, such as the cost of physical therapy and medication. Surgery may be necessary for some conditions, but this can be covered, too. In addition, victims may receive wage replacement and be covered for short- or long-term disability leave. A lawyer may help with the filing and, if necessary, the appeals process.

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