Most people think of a workplace injury as a single, life-changing event: a construction worker suffering a brain injury after a brick falls from a scaffolding, or a dockworker throwing out his back while unloading a heavy shipment. Most often, however, workplace injuries develop gradually from performing minor, repetitive movements over the course of weeks, months, and years. These injuries are called repetitive stress or strain injuries, and they’re one of the most frequently reported workplace injuries in office environments.
REPETITIVE STRESS AND STRAIN INJURIES IN THE OFFICE?
The most common type of repetitive stress injury is carpal tunnel syndrome. It affects the hands, wrists, and forearms and is characterized by pain, numbness, and tingling. If you spend your workday sitting at a desk and typing on a keyboard, here are five ways you can improve your ergonomics to prevent the development of a repetitive stress injury:
TYPE USING A NEUTRAL WRIST POSITION
When typing on a keyboard, your wrists should be at a neutral height. Avoid resting your wrists on your desk, as well as typing with your wrists bent upwards. Typing with your wrists in unnatural positions puts additional strain on the tendons and increases your risk for repetitive stress injury.
TAKE REGULAR BREAKS
When not typing, rest your hands on your desk to give your wrists a break. For repetitive stress injury prevention, it’s recommended to take a five-minute break for every 20 to 30 minutes of activity. If possible, spend your five-minute break standing up or walking around.
SIT UP STRAIGHT
Many repetitive stress injuries begin with poor posture. First, position your hips so your lower back is against the back of your chair or lumbar support pillow. Then, place your feet flat on the floor and adjust your seat height so your knees and elbows are bent at 90-degree angles.
ADJUST YOUR COMPUTER MONITOR HEIGHT
The top of your computer screen should be just at or slightly below eye level. When positioned correctly, your eyes should gaze slightly downward when looking at the middle of your screen. To prevent a repetitive stress injury, position your monitor 20 inches, or arm’s length distance, from your eyes.
PLACE THE MOUSE AND KEYBOARD CLOSE TO YOU
Your keyboard should be positioned right in front of you at the edge of your desk and slightly below elbow level. This makes it easy to type in the neutral wrist position. Your mouse should be placed close to your keyboard to prevent unnecessary reaching. Do not place your keyboard and mouse on different levels.
DO YOU SUSPECT YOU HAVE A REPETITIVE STRESS INJURY? YOU MAY QUALIFY FOR WORKERS’ COMPENSATION.
It’s important to pay attention to the warning signs of carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive stress injuries in the developing stages. Dull or achy pain, tingling or numbness, or a loss of strength in your limbs could be a result of performing your job duties. If this is the case, you may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation to cover your medical treatment, missed wages, and any permanent impairment.
If you suspect a repetitive stress injury, it’s important to notify your employer and file a workers’ compensation claim as soon as possible. The time limit to file a claim in California is 30 days, and given the cumulative nature of repetitive stress injuries, it can be difficult to pinpoint an exact date of injury. This is where an attorney can provide immense value. At The Law Office of Matthew Russell, we can help you navigate the complicated legal system, collect evidence, and arrange for medical testimony to support your case.
Call us today at (619) 544-1506 to schedule a free consultation.