How to protect yourself from repetitive stress injuries at work

When you have to do the same thing at work every day, your job becomes predictable. You might presume that this predictability makes it particularly safe, but the truth is that repetitive work is a leading cause of injury to workers.

Even if you never make a mistake with proper body mechanics while performing your job, you can still develop a repetitive motion injury, also known as a repetitive stress or strain injury, that will have a long-term impact on your ability to do the same kind of work.

Repetitive stress injuries can cause pain, reduce your range of motion and limit the strength of the affected body part. You may have to take breaks, perform physical therapy exercises or request completely different job responsibilities just to continue working. Thankfully, there are a few steps that you can take that will reduce your risk of developing a repetitive motion injury.

Analyze the work you do for risk factors

Every job has different requirements, so you have to think about the tasks you perform in order to determine what kind of repetitive motion injuries might be a risk for you as a worker. Look at the physical activities that you perform repeatedly, as well as the posture that you have at work.

For example, those who sit all day may need a chair with good lumbar support and possibly a footstool for the proper posture to protect their spine and musculoskeletal system. For those who stand all day, shock-absorbing floor mats, excellent shoes with proper arch support, and brakes during which they can stretch their legs, hips and back are all ways to limit risk.

In addition to offsetting the impact of holding the same position much of the day, you will need to think about the tasks you perform.

Small motions and strains build up over time

Even the simplest, smallest maneuver, like striking a key on a keyboard, can cause damage to the body when performed over and over for long amounts of time, day after day. Whether you lift and load, put parts into position and turn them, file documents or roll out dough, look at the tasks that you do the most and consider the impact that they might have on your body.

Certain decisions, like choosing to stretch before your shift and after each break can help, as can ergonomic support that you either purchase yourself or ask your employer to provide for you. You may also look into restorative stretching and exercises for after work that will help strengthen the body parts most affected by the work that you do every day.

For those who still develop symptoms of repetitive motion injuries, medical intervention will likely be necessary. Rest is often also important, which will probably mean that you need to file a workers’ compensation claim to take time off of work and get the care that you need.