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Even office workers could end up needing workers' compensation

When people think about workers' compensation claims, they probably think about dramatic injuries, like truck drivers getting into a crash while working. The truth is that office workers are also at risk for work-related injuries. Sometimes, these can be dramatic events, such as a slip-and-fall accident or even an electric shock from a machine. It is more common, however, for office workers to require coverage because of repetitive stress.

Many office workers engage in the same tasks over and over again throughout the day. The impact of routinely typing for hours or holding a phone for long period can cause repetitive stress to muscles, tendons and joints. Over time, this physical stress can manifest into cumulative trauma that can reduce a worker's quality of life or even impede his or her ability to perform certain tasks at work.

Understanding cumulative trauma

For those who don't have to engage in habitual tasks over and over, the concept of cumulative trauma could be confusing. These injuries result from low-level damage or injury to the same area over and over, for many weeks, months or even years.

Sitting poorly in a bad chair could cause strain to your back, neck and knees. Typing at the wrong height could strain your wrists or your neck. Most workers are quick to soldier on through little discomforts, not imagining the compounding impact it will have over the years.

Sometimes cumulative trauma is preventable

Employers can do certain things for office workers that reduce the risk of cumulative injuries. Using glare reducers on all screens and monitors can reduce the strain on the eyes. Ergonomic keyboards and office chairs with adjustable lumbar support can reduce strain and damage to areas frequently subject to cumulative trauma.

When you develop painful symptoms, you should see a doctor immediately. If the condition is clearly the result of cumulative trauma from your office you, you should file a workers' compensation claim to ensure your medical costs get covered.

Your employer should accommodate your injuries

Filing a workers' compensation claim can cover your medical expenses, including surgery or physical therapy. Ideally, you will be able to return to work, provided that your employer accommodates your needs.

For example, your doctor may recommend 15 minutes away from the keyboard every hour to reduce the pain and worsening of carpal tunnel syndrome. That time could be spent engaging in alternative work projects, like filing or sorting records, shredding outdated paperwork or even restocking sugar in the employee break room.

With adequate support and accommodations, most people with cumulative trauma from work are able to return to employment. Workers' compensation helps ensure these people get the treatment they need and have financial protection while they recover before returning to work.

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