Hands can do incredible things, such as playing Ravel’s infamously difficult “Gaspard de la Nuit” on the piano or crocheting a woolen hat to ward off the bitter winds of a Milwaukee winter or simpler things such as buttoning a shirt closed in the morning.
Our hands are complicated appendages made of skin, muscles, tendons and bones that are susceptible to occupational injuries such as RSI (repetitive stress injuries).
Though the injuries won’t end your life, debilitating repetitive stress injuries such as tendonitis (the most common RSI), carpal tunnel syndrome, epicondylitis, ganglion cyst, tenosynovitis, trigger finger and bursitis can in some cases end careers.
The renowned Cleveland Clinic says on its website that the most common symptom of RSI is pain, but the condition can also result in “swelling, tingling, numbness, stiffness, weakness and sensitivity to cold or heat.”
Of course, repetitive motion injuries are not limited to the hands. They’re common as well in the neck, back, shoulder, hip or knee.
‘Don’t wait . . . ‘
The Cleveland Clinic urges people to seek treatment when they suspect a repetitive strain injury. “Don’t wait until the pain and functional loss is severe,” the clinic says.
Because many people now spend hours each day working on computers, their repetitive finger and hand motions can result in RSI. These painful injuries aren’t limited to those tapping on keyboards all day, of course. Construction workers (especially those who regularly use power tools) and those who work outside in winter are also vulnerable.
There is a wide array of treatments available for RSI, including rest, icing, splints, anti-inflammatory medication, steroid injections, physical therapy and sometimes even surgery.
If a repetitive strain injury results in permanent work restrictions result in a worker unable to return to their same job or line of work, workers’ compensation can pay for them to be retrained (go back to school!) into a new, less physical field. This includes weekly benefits while in school, tuition, books, meals, and mileage (to and from campus). While retraining can be a daunting prospect for a worker who has not been in school for quite some time, vocational retraining can be the best route to get an injured worker back to make similar (or more) money in a different career. An attorney’s assistance is almost always need to bring a retraining claim in work comp.