When people think of workplace injuries, they commonly imagine catastrophic accidents. While it is true that anticipated events at work, such as malfunctioning machinery or a backfiring tool, can lead to severe injuries, sometimes workers end up hurt without any major triggering event. In fact, some of the most debilitating and painful work-related injuries don’t occur as the result of trauma.
Instead, these injuries develop over time because workers perform the same tasks repeatedly. These injuries, called repetitive motion injuries, can affect your muscle, bones and connective tissue. They are common for people in all lines of work, from professional drivers and office workers to people who work in manufacturing.
Many people who work in physical fields, whether it is construction or manufacturing, try to push through the pain when something hurts. After all, your job demands that you get everything done, regardless of how you feel. While that approaches certainly helps with productivity, it does not help you heal.
Ignoring pain, especially if you have recurring symptoms in the same area, could mean developing a worse injury over time. While you don’t want to call in sick or miss work just because of mild discomfort, if you noticed ongoing pain in the same area while working, that is a warning sign of a potentially serious injury. Instead of brushing it off, you should seek medical evaluation as soon as you realize it’s more than a minor, one-time discomfort.
The best thing you can do in the wake of discovering a repetitive motion injury is follow your doctor’s orders. Whether you see a physician who works at your place of employment or your own personal doctor, you will likely be told to rest.
Depending on the location and nature of your repetitive motion injury, the doctor may recommend anything from physical therapy to surgery to address the issue. Chances are strong that you will need to stop performing the motion or action that led to the injury as well, at least until you fully recover.
You should make sure that your employer receives all this documentation. Knowing that you require accommodations, such as different work tasks, can help your employer keep you at work during your recovery. More importantly, it can ensure that you don’t exacerbate your existing injury by continuing to perform the same motions.
Sadly, some employers refuse to work with injured workers. If your employer refuses you basic accommodations or medical leave because of a repetitive motion injury, you may need to take further action. Carefully documenting your request for accommodations, as well as the recommendations of your doctor, can help you build a case if you need to take legal action.