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Cumulative Stress Can Add Up To Injury Cumulative Stress Can Add Up To Injury

Cumulative Stress Can Add Up To Injury

While most workplace injuries are the result of a single accident, others can gradually develop over time. Cumulative trauma injuries, also known as repetitive stress injuries, result from repetitive motions or strenuous actions performed over extended periods. These injuries occur when there is too much pressure on one area of the body from performing the same action over and over. When a person performs the same motions each day, exceptional force is applied to his or her muscles, nerves, tendons and ligaments. Awkward positioning, poor posture or unsafe lifting practices can increase the chances of developing a cumulative stress injury. Other cumulative trauma injuries may be caused by vibrations and compression, such as when a worker uses a jackhammer regularly or from repeated typing and computer use. The repetitive action causes micro traumas to occur repeatedly which can slowly wear down tissue over time and result in inflammation and damage to the muscle, nerve, tendon, tissue or ligament.

Cumulative trauma injuries commonly affect the shoulders, low back and wrists.  Shoulder injuries are frequently caused by lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling, and working with your hands above shoulder level. Disc bulges or herniations and other back injuries are often due to repetitive or heavy lifting and twisting or standing for long periods. Wrist tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome can develop in workers who perform repetitive tasks on an assembly line or computer station.

In order to reduce or eliminate cumulative trauma injuries in the workplace, employers and employees should evaluate their job tasks and take steps to reduce the possibility of developing a cumulative trauma injury.  These steps may include:
  • Maintain good posture
  • Take short breaks to stretch habitually worked muscles
  • Use properly fitting and ergonomic equipment to promote correct body positioning
  • Use braces and supports to help limit over flexion or over extension to the body
In addition to being mindful of the motions and repetitive activity of  employees, employers should also encourage a healthy lifestyle to decrease risk of cumulative trauma injuries. When employees take care of their bodies by eating right and engaging in regular exercise, they can reduce their susceptibility to cumulative trauma injury and  increase the body’s ability to heal itself against repetitive stress. Employers can encourage healthy habits by developing a reward/incentive program to promote exercise and wellness or provide healthy nutritious snacks, such as protein bars or fruit, in breakrooms.

This publication is intended for general information purposes only and does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. The reader should consult with legal counsel to determine how laws or decisions discussed herein apply to the reader's specific circumstances.
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