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Does workers' compensation cover repetitive stress?


Many people in Montana think of workers' compensation claims in terms of on-the-job accidents involving workers in construction or heavy industry. The system does indeed provide important benefits for those workers. But, workers' compensation benefits can also be recovered for injuries that take months or even years to develop. And, many of the workers who are eligible to recover these benefits spend their working days in an office, specifically working at a keyboard.

One common work-related injury affecting office workers is repetitive stress injury. Repetitive stress refers to an overuse injury caused by making the same motions repeatedly for hours at a time, day in and day out. People who work at computer keyboards often develop repetitive stress injuries in the hands and arms.

Repetitive stress injuries can cause severe pain and inability to work. They can result in significant medical expenses and lost income from taking time off of work. Doctors often prescribe painkillers and an arm splint to relieve the symptoms. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary.

Office workers can reduce the risk of repetitive stress injury by taking a few precautions. Ergonomics are important; workers who uses a keyboard should make sure their work stations are set up to put the least amount of stress on the back, arms and wrists. When typing, wrists should be level with the elbows and straight. Frequent breaks and stretching can also help prevent injury.

Unfortunately, many office environments do not allow for the possibility of frequent breaks. And, many people will develop repetitive stress injuries despite taking reasonable precautions. When this happens, workers' compensation benefits may be available to cover medical expenses, lost wages and permanent disability.

Source: consumer.healthday.com, "Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI)," Paige Bierma, M.A., accessed Dec. 7, 2015

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