Repetitive motion injuries result from motions or movements that are made with the same parts of the body repeated multiple times in the course of day every day. Examples of movements that may cause repetitive stress injuries include grocery clerks scanning items at check-out, lifting or moving objects repeatedly in a warehouse or typing on a keyboard. Many repetitive motion injuries involve small hand movements, such as manipulating a computer mouse or writing. Over time, the repeated movements cause stress to parts of the body involved.
Each year, nearly two-thirds of all occupational injuries reported are caused by repeated trauma or movement, mainly to upper body parts such as the shoulder, the wrist, the elbow, the knee and the back.
Some repetitive stress injury (RSI) statistics gathered from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) are listed as follows:
- The incident rate in the year 2012 for repetitive motion injuries was 3.0 incidents per 10,000 workers;
- Musculoskeletal disease (MSD) had an incident rate of 37.8/10,000 workers, however repetitive motion is often a factor in MSD;
- Overexertion accounted for 12.5 incidents per 10,000 workers. However, repetitive motion is often a factor in overexertion cases as well;
- On average, a person requires 23 days to fully recover from a repetitive motion injury. This is 14 days more than the average number of days to recover for all other injuries. Recovery from most injuries takes only 9 days;
- Employers must pay out an estimated $80 million for repetitive motion injuries every year;
- Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is the most commonly reported repetitive stress injury. It affects more than 8 million Americans;
- Almost half of all carpal tunnel syndrome cases cause workers to miss a month or more of work time; and
- Doctors perform an estimated 260,000 carpal tunnel syndrome release surgeries every year.
- Almost half of these cases, 47%, are considered to be work-related.
Some of the jobs involving repetitive motion, which puts them at higher risk for causing a repetitive motion injury, are as follows:
- Computer users;
- Meat, poultry and fish processing and packing workers;
- Workers who use saws or jackhammers;
- Postal workers;
- Dental technicians;
- Cake decorators; and
- Carpet installers.
Most repetitive motion injuries involve one of the body’s joints and usually the bursa, muscle, tendon or bone of the affected joint.
Repetitive motion conditions are sometimes considered illnesses and not injuries due to the length of time it can take to recover from them. Carpal tunnel syndrome is one such condition. As a result, statistics have reflected lower numbers for injuries caused by trauma. On the other hand, the total incidents of illnesses has increased due to the fact that repetitive stress injuries have been included in the category, and especially, carpal tunnel syndrome. Between four to 10 million people in the United States in 2017 had carpal tunnel syndrome.
Of course, it is also true that fewer Americans work on shop factory floors, where accidents are more likely. Increasing numbers of people work in cubicles in front of a computer monitor. Or, more people now work in a service business where performing a repetitive motion is a feature of the job. As a result, more people file workers’ compensation claims for repetitive stress injuries than for traumatic workplace accidents.
There is a high rate of failure for the corrective procedures done to treat repetitive motion injuries. Surgeries to treat CTS and other nerve compression injuries, such as CTS release operations, have a failure rate of over 50%. This means that 50% of the time, when operations to repair CTS are done, the operations fail to correct the problem. This is one of the main reasons why repetitive stress injuries cost employers and insurers so much every year.