What Are Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders?

Musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace can occur as a result of a one-time accident, or a work-related injury can accumulate over time from a repetitive motion strain. Musculoskeletal disorders are defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as resulting from overexertion or repetitive motion. These cumulative trauma disorders are long-term injuries that are caused by muscles and joints being used to repeat the same motions, which are commonly related to work tasks.

How Are Musculoskeletal Disorders Different from Other Soft Tissue Injuries?

Although sudden workplace accidents can harm soft tissues and joints, musculoskeletal disorders are different. Unlike injuries that occur after slip and fall injuries, these disorders develop over time from repeated exposure to situations that overexert, overtax, or damage muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints, nerves, cartilage, and spinal disks.

What Types of Injuries Are Considered Musculoskeletal Disorders?

Soft tissue injuries that fall under the category of musculoskeletal disorders include the following trauma:

  • Muscle sprains
  • Muscle stains
  • Muscle or soft tissue tears
  • Hernias
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Tendinitis
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Epicondylitis
  • Trigger finger
  • Certain back injuries

What Kinds of Motions or Work Tasks Cause These Injuries?

Musculoskeletal disorders can be caused by:

  • Lifting
  • Holding or carrying
  • Pushing
  • Pulling
  • Crawling
  • Twisting
  • Bending
  • Reaching overhead
  • Repetitive motion
  • Overexertion
  • Straining while using tools or machinery
  • Working in awkward positions or in a limited workspace
  • Sustained vibration

What Areas of the Body Sustain Musculoskeletal Disorders from Work Tasks?

Depending on the actions that are performed, there are many areas of the body that can become affected by work-induced musculoskeletal disorders. These areas include the following:

  • Lower back muscles
  • Shoulders
  • Knees
  • Hands
  • Wrists
  • Elbows
  • Neck
  • Ankles
  • Spinal vertebrae

How Common Are Musculoskeletal Injuries in the Workplace?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that approximately 30 percent of all Workers’ Compensation expenses are related to musculoskeletal injuries. These injuries are among the most common work-related injuries that require workers to take time off.

About half of the work-related musculoskeletal disorder claims are brought by workers in health care, retail trade, and manufacturing. When it comes to lost time, the median requirement for time off was about 12 days in 2018.

What Costs Do Musculoskeletal Disorders Present for Employers?

Employers are keenly aware that when their employees suffer musculoskeletal injuries at work, the company suffers as well. Employers must contend with the loss of productivity from the time off needed for the employee to recover from the injury. Employers also must cover the health care and insurance costs associated with the work injury. If the worker is disabled, the employer may be required to continue paying them through the company’s disability payments or Workers’ Compensation program.

What Can Employers Do to Prevent Musculoskeletal Disorders?

Employers must make efforts to protect their employees from on-the-job musculoskeletal injuries. One of the surest ways to do that is to train employees on how to recognize the dangers of these injuries and to take steps to avoid them before they occur.

Employers should invest in ergonomic solutions to keep their workers healthy and safe as they perform work tasks. Workers should be trained to maintain proper posture and work habits to avoid injury. Ensuring that workstations are equipped with ergonomic machinery and seating allows for workers to perform their jobs without compromising their bodies. Machines that assist with lifting or transporting items can save a worker from overexertion.

In addition to ergonomic solutions, workers should be afforded frequent breaks during their shifts to stretch and rest. Workers should be encouraged to protect themselves from overworking their muscles performing repetitive tasks. It should be clear that workers are not doing themselves or anyone else any favors by pushing themselves to their physical limits.

Employers can address the issue of potential overexertion or repetitive strain injuries by adjusting work schedules and spreading out the impact of certain tasks by rotating workers among workstations. Sharing work by rotating with a team of co-workers can be a significant way to avoid developing certain musculoskeletal disorders.

Employers should seek to change any company culture influences that cause workers to believe that they are slacking by taking necessary and protective breaks and sharing repetitive work tasks throughout their workday.

What Are Symptoms Associated with Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders?

People who suffer from musculoskeletal disorders report that the issues start subtly with dull aches, tingling, or stiffness. Some sufferers report swelling or numbness. The situation often devolves to include persistent pain and limited mobility or impaired dexterity. This reduced function can affect a person’s ability to work.

Oftentimes, workers who suffer musculoskeletal injuries on the job are required by their doctor to take time off to recover. When this happens, the worker may require partial disability. In extreme cases, these injuries may result in permanent disability.

How Are Musculoskeletal Disorders Treated?

The best way to treat musculoskeletal disorders is to address them immediately. Ignoring the first symptoms only makes the situation worse. People who suspect that their work is causing musculoskeletal problems should have their symptoms evaluated right away.

Treating the ailment with rest can be a tremendous help. More serious cases may require physical therapy, medications, or even surgical solutions.

New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen, LLC Represent Workers Injured on the Job

If you suffered a serious musculoskeletal injury in a work accident, you should be able to collect benefits through your employer’s Workers’ Compensation program. If you have been denied coverage or if you believe the settlement offer does not meet the needs of your injuries, reach out to the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen, LLC. Our legal team can help you prove that the accident that caused your loss is eligible for coverage under the employer’s plan. Call us at 856-751-7676 or contact us online for a free consultation. Our offices are in Mount Laurel, Cherry Hill, Trenton, and Vineland, New Jersey; and Trevose, Pennsylvania. We serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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