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While some workplace injuries result from acute trauma such as an auto accident or fall, others develop because of repetitive stress. These injuries are common among medical employees, factory workers, checkout clerks and others who perform similar muscle movements day after day. 

Learn more about the symptoms of and treatment for repetitive stress injuries. 

What are the signs of a repetitive stress injury? 

This type of injury causes pain and discomfort in the affected area, often the shoulders, neck, arms, wrists, elbows or hands. Individuals with a repetitive stress injury often experience tenderness, swelling, stiffness, loss of mobility, limited range of motion, weakness, hot or cold sensitivity, tingling, numbness, and throbbing. Pain and other symptoms may be mild at first and worsen over time. 

Why do repetitive stress injuries occur? 

Frequent motions cause strain that damages muscles and tendons over time. In addition to repetitive motions, this condition can also result from standing or sitting in the same posture for a long time, or from lifting heavy objects. Sometimes, repetitive stress exacerbates a previous acute injury. 

Those who lead a mostly sedentary lifestyle with little exercise are at higher risk for this type of injury. You can reduce your risk for this type of injury by taking frequent breaks, making sure that your workstation is ergonomic and maintaining good posture. If you have to lift a heavy object, ask for help. 

How do doctors treat repetitive stress injuries? 

Often, minor injuries resolve with rest, over-the-counter medications and application of ice to reduce pain and swelling. If these measures do not improve symptoms, your doctor may recommend steroid injections, physical therapy, stress reduction training, work station modifications and/or splinting. In some cases, fixing damage to tendons and muscles will require surgery. 

If you experience discomfort and think that you may have this type of injury, see your doctor. If severe repetitive stress keeps you from doing your job, you may be able to file for workers’ compensation benefits that cover the costs of lost wages and medical care.