Shoulder injuries caused by repetitive motion are common in many industries. Any job where you are repeating the same arm motion over and over again can cause a repetitive stress injury.
Some workers that can be most at risk include hairdressers, meat cutters, carpenters, and checkout clerks, to name just a few. Even baseball players are not immune – Minnesota Twins outfielder Eddie Rosario was recently scratched from the starting lineup for an upcoming game due to shoulder discomfort.
What are the signs of a repetitive stress injury to the shoulder?
Shoulder soreness is the most typical sign. Your shoulder may ache continuously, or you may experience sharp or shooting pain when you move your arm in a certain way, such as lifting it above your head.
Numbness in the shoulder and upper arm area may also be a sign. You may notice that you are not using the affected arm and shoulder as much as you typically do.
What can I do to prevent a repetitive stress injury to the shoulder?
Repetitive stress injuries take a long time to develop, and even longer to heal. Therefore prevention is key. Here are a few things you can try that will help prevent a shoulder injury:
- Take frequent breaks
- Make sure your posture is correct
- Perform simple stretches before, during, and after work
- Wear a compression sleeve
What can I do if I already have a repetitive stress injury to the shoulder?
There are four main steps to take if you have a repetitive stress injury:
- Rest your shoulder: you may need to take some time off from your job, or attempt to perform your job with the uninjured arm – although in many cases that is not possible.
- Apply ice: although icing your shoulder won’t help heal the injury, it can lessen the inflammation and pain.
- Stretch and strengthen: tretching your shoulder on a daily basis, and performing strengthening exercises weekly can help improve the condition of your shoulder.
- Seek medical attention: your doctor may recommend physical therapy or cortisone injections to help resolve the issue.
If the injury is caused by my job, am I eligible for workers‘ compensation?
In Minnesota workers’ compensation there is a concept called a Gillette injury, which happens when the “cumulative effects of minute repetitive trauma are serious enough to disable an employee.” Therefore, you certainly have the option to file a workers’ compensation claim if you have a Gillette injury.
Unfortunately, if the injury prevents you from performing your job, you will not be covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. If your employer is not willing to assign you a different task that doesn’t involve using your injured arm, you may have to seek new employment.