People only tend to think of filing for workers’ compensation benefits if they have been hurt in a singular incident, such as falling from a ladder while stocking shelves. But did you know that you can also be eligible for benefits if your work injury developed over time?
Cumulative trauma disorder refers to injuries that develop due to regular repetitive motions (known as a repetitive stress injury or RSI), such as constantly lifting heavy objects, or continuous adverse conditions, such as loud noises that cause hearing loss. Such injuries occur often in professions that require a recurring repetitive activity, such as writing or assembly.
So how common is CTD? According to the Travelers Injury Impact Report published in 2016 by the largest workers’ compensation insurance carrier in the country, 4% of claims filed between 2010 and 2014 regarded “traumas occurring over time.” Our Louisville workers’ compensation attorneys explain the most common types of cumulative trauma and how to file a claim.
How Do I Know I Have Work-Related Cumulative Trauma Disorder?
Cumulative trauma disorder, or CTD, is defined as excessive wear and tear on muscles, tendons, nerve tissue, and other body parts from regular use over an extended period. CTD usually develops from repetition or improper posture.
Professions that are susceptible to cumulative trauma include:
- Stock clerks
- Warehouse workers
- Factory workers
However, anyone who performs a job the same way regularly can be at risk.
The following repetitive motions and circumstances may lead to cumulative trauma disorder:
- Awkward posture or positioning
- Frequent/heavy lifting
- Holding the same position for a long period of time
- Intensive word processing
- Lack of rest or break time
- Poorly designed tools
- Poorly designed workstations
- Repetitive tasks
- Use of vibrating tools
Injuries Associated With CTD
Some of the most common injuries that result from cumulative trauma or repetitive stress are:
- Neck injuries: Nerve and muscle damage, as well as spinal disc injuries such as protrusions, bulges, and herniations are common neck injuries that accumulate over time.
- Lower back injuries: Same as above.
- Shoulder injuries: These include damage to areas such as the rotator cuff, the acromioclavicular joint, and the labrum.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome: Numbness and tingling in the hands and arms caused by a pinched wrist nerve.
- Tendinitis: This condition affects individuals when the tissue connecting muscle to bone becomes inflamed. Examples include Golfer’s elbow, Tennis elbow, Achilles tendinitis, and De Quervain's tenosynovitis.
What to Do If You Have CTD
As soon as you start to develop symptoms, go see a doctor. You’ll need a diagnosis and medical records to confirm your injury and back up your workers’ comp claim. If you’re certain the injury was caused by work and doctor prescribes that you take time off or alter your working conditions in order to heal, you can file for workers’ compensation as you normally would. Due to the statute of limitations in Kentucky, you must file your claim within two years of discovering the injury.