Working in the shipping, trucking, and warehousing industries has its hazards, in spite of the numerous workplace safety regulations in place. Machinery, vehicles, and moving heavy objects around can all pose a risk to the wellbeing of shipping employees, making the risk of injury very real. One type of injury that is not usually considered, however, is repetitive stress.
A repetitive stress injury, also referred to as repetitive or cumulative trauma or strain, occurs over time, so it may not be as obvious as a more acute injury, such as broken bones or lost fingers. As such, there are some challenges when it comes to recovering workers’ compensation for these, but they are just as real—and just as compensable—as any other workplace injury.
Causes of Repetitive Strain Injuries
A repetitive trauma injury occurs over time, usually from constantly repeated motions that place stress on a specific part of the body. For instance, many office workers experience carpal tunnel syndrome, which affects the wrists and fingers and comes from extensive typing.
In warehousing, shipping, and trucking, these injuries generally result from the constant heavy lifting workers have to perform every day. Over time, this can cause fatigue to the musculature in the spine, resulting in back pain and stiffness. If left untreated, this can get severe as the muscles around the spine deteriorate with constant use and as inflammation occurs in areas around the vertebrae.
Types of Repetitive Stress Injuries in Shipping
Probably the most common of these injuries for shipping workers occur in the back and spine. These include:
- Lumbar sprains, involving wear and tear on muscles around the lower back
- Spinal disc sprains, i.e. wear on the tissue between vertebrae
- Herniated disc, in which the disc protrudes from between vertebrae
Tissue damage may also occur around joints used in lifting, such as the hips, shoulders, fingers, and so forth. Even with proper lifting techniques, these types of injuries can still occur over time while you are constantly bending, twisting, or moving certain muscles over and over again. If left alone long enough, repetitive stress to your back or limbs can result in debilitating pain that can affect your quality of life and ability to work.
What to Do About Repetitive Trauma Injuries
If you work in the shipping and trucking industry and have noticed a nagging pain that just doesn’t seem to go away, you may have a repetitive stress injury. When you notice this pain, it’s important to act promptly, even if it doesn’t feel particularly serious. Putting off action could disqualify you from workers’ compensation benefits since Illinois law sets a limit on how late you can apply.
The first thing you should do is visit with your doctor. They can review your condition and help you determine whether your pain results from your job. If so, you should have them provide a written note stating as such. At that point, notify your employer.
It is also highly recommended that you get the help of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. Your employer may try to fight or minimize your claim and give you less than you deserve, so having legal representation on your side will be a massive benefit to you. Hart David Carson, LLP, can help you in that area.