Cumulative trauma disorder is a term used collectively to describe repetitive injuries caused on the human body usually when working. It has been found that workers incur injuries by repetitively straining body muscles when performing work related tasks. These tasks may incline the worker to take awkward positions that strain muscles, ligaments and joints. The term cumulative trauma disorders can also be referred to as overuse syndromes, repetitive motion disorders, repetitive strain injuries, repetitive motion injuries, or regional muscoskeletal disorders.
Workers experience pain and are sometimes crippled due to these injuries. These injuries do not occur over night, but they progressively develop over several weeks, months or even years. All or most of the cumulative trauma disorders have similar symptoms. These include numbness, pain, swelling, clumsiness, burning sensation, weakness, redness of affected muscles, tingling, aching, limited joint movements, and the cracking of one’s joints when moving. Several disorders can be perceived as cumulative trauma disorders.
Cumulative Trauma Disorders
Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common disorders for workers. It involves compression of a medial nerve at the wrist. This is usually caused by the swelling up and pain of the tendons and the tendon sheaths (McCabe, 2002). Tenosynovitis or trigger finger is swelling or irritable pain of a tendon sheath that is attributed to excessive flexion and stretching of one’s wrist. Other strain injury involves the back injuries. Low back injuries include pulled and or strained tendons, ligaments and muscles. It also includes ruptured disks. Low back injuries occur because one has poor posture techniques and or poor lifting techniques. Synovitis is a disorder associated with swelling and pain or irritation of a joint lining also referred to as a synovial lining.
DeQuervain’s disease is a joint pain, synovitis, involving the base of the thumb. Bursitis is a swelling or inflammation of the connective tissue around a joint. This is usually associated with the shoulder. Epicondilytis is a defect affecting the elbow and is extremely painful. This is usually caused by extreme and continuous rotation of one’s fore arm and the bending of one’s wrist. The disorder is also referred to as golfer’s elbow or at times tennis elbow. Another disorder is referred to as the thoracic outlet syndrome. This is a compression of nerves and blood vessel in between the collarbone and the initial rib and the muscles found there as the exit the chest cavity entering the shoulder.
Cervical Radiculopathy is said to be a compression of nerve roots found in the neck. Ulna Nerve Entrapment is the compression of ulna nerve located in the wrist. These eleven disorders are perceived to the most common disorders affecting individuals at their places of work. However, these disorders are not limited to work only, they may also apply to other activities that involve any repetitive movements or continued awkward positions that may arise during sport. It is essential to note that these disorders can be caused by both non-work and job related activities (Charney & Hudson, 2004). This makes it difficult for one to come up with actual cause of the disease. It is also true that these disorders are caused by other medical situations such as arthritis, diabetes pregnancy among others. Despite all these factors, the disorders are largely associated with work in employment environments.
It is recommended that, for such disorders, one should rest enough, and the make a change in the work practices to reduce injuries. Other than rest and change in common practice, one has to seek medical attention the moment symptoms are experienced. A doctor’s involvement in the early stages is important because it reduces the chance of irreparable damages caused by these injuries (Silver & Rizzo, 2005). Medical attention varies with each disorder and the severity. A doctor may prescribe several treatments, such as a wrist splint so that the wrist cannot bend cool or hot baths for the muscles and joints and anti-inflammatory drugs for swollen muscles. Steroid injections and physical therapy could be used to restore muscle and joint pains. Surgery is only an option if the situation is too severe for medication or any form of therapy. For effective medical attention, it is crucial for people to understand every injury is different and should not undertake any self-treatment measures. It is also necessary to point out that one’s work practices have to change to avoid a recurrence similar of disorders (Charney & Hudson, 2004).
Laws Regarding CTDs
The disorders render workers unable to perform tasks as expected. The American’s with disability Act requires that private employers should offer qualified disabled employees reasonable work accommodations, except for when such accommodations would subject the employee to hardships. A disability in this case is any physical or mental challenge that materially limits an individual’s ability to carry out normal daily activities. The United States law provides for employee treatment by the employer if the worker is injured during work (Levy, 2006). The provision also allows for monetary compensation if a worker has been permanently disabled. Workman compensation schemes vary all Around America. It is essential for one to understand how to file for claims and prove work related injury. Some employees require on to fill out a federal or state compensation form.
Epicondylitis is considered an occupational disease occasioned by work place injury. If the injury is work related, then an individual has the right to seek compensation. These claims are at times complicated and require that one gain access to relevant medical doctors who will diagnose the ailment truthfully and effectively. In addition to this, one has to find a labor lawyer to present their case for them. Some employees feel it is necessary to represent themselves in such claims, but a lawyer is better placed to argue out the claims more efficiently and avoid a denial. If a claim has been refuted, a lawyer makes the right steps into seeking legal redress on an employee’s behalf.
Carpal tunnel syndrome has come a long way to the point where it can be considered a work related injury. In Chicago Illinois, the Supreme Court has found that carpal tunnel injury can be considered work related injury and one could be compensated under the Illinois Workman’s Act (Schulz & Gatchel, 2005). Despite the fact that the disorder is a gradual condition and not a sudden injury, most states in America recognize the impact the disorder has on workers all over America. The act provides for several other benefits entitled to the worker. The worker is entitled to a hundred percent medical cover by the employer. This includes but is not limited to the following: prescriptions, first aid, in and out patient services, and doctor’s visits.
The employee is also able to pick a physician of their choice and the hospital where they feel will attend to them sufficiently. The Illinois Workman’s Act also ensures that as long as the care needed is within reason, the patient is not supposed to pay anything for such treatment. In the period when one is in recovery, one’s employer or its insurance company is legally bound to make temporary total disability compensation (TTD). This compensation is based on a percentage of one’s weekly payments that also includes overtime. The employer according to this act is also expected to start TTD payments within two weeks or fourteen days after the employee informed the employer about the carpal tunnel injury.
Tenosynovitis is a tendon, related injury that is related to work injuries. Courts in five states, including North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Maryland award benefits disabled employees affected by the cumulative trauma disorders under their respective Workers’ Compensation Acts. The Workers’ Compensation Act includes repetitive strain injuries such as synovitis, tenosynovitis, bursitis, hearing loss among other related material. For one to prove that injury resulted from work, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act expects the employee claiming compensation to show three things. To begin with, the claimant has to show that the injury is work related; secondly, that the disorder unique to the work situation and no one outside employment can get it and; finally, the claimant has to demonstrate that a casual relationship is present between the injury and the work. The North Carolina courts awards claimants who demonstrate these qualities before them.
The courts in West Virginia use occupational disease theory to award benefits to employees. The courts award compensation considering the following circumstances. For one, there must be a relationship between the work conditions and the repetitive disorder. Secondly, the claimant has to establish the disorder comes naturally as a work effect. Thirdly, the claimant has to demonstrate the disorder can be attributed to the work involved and nothing else. Fourth, the worker’s condition cannot be acquired by any other person outside work. Fifth, the claimant must show the condition occurs as an attribute of the work and that it is dependent on the employer employee relationship. Finally, the employee has to show that the origin of the disorder is a risk factor related to the job although the risk could not have been determined at the time of employment.
Charney, W., & Hudson, A. (2004). Back injury among healthcare workers: Causes, solutions, and impacts. Boca Raton: Lewis.
Frontera, W. R., Silver, J. K., & Rizzo, T. D. (2008). Essentials of physical medicine and rehabilitation: Musculoskeletal disorders, pain, and rehabilitation. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders/Elsevier.
Levy, B. S. (2006). Occupational and environmental health: Recognizing and preventing disease and injury. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
McCabe, S. J. (2002). 101 questions and answers about carpal tunnel syndrome: What it is, how to prevent it, and where to turn for treatment. Chicago: Contemporary Books.
Schultz, I. Z., & Gatchel, R. J. (2005). Handbook of complex occupational disability claims: Early risk identification, intervention, and prevention. New York: Springer.