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Cumulative Trauma

What Are Cumulative Trauma Injuries

Cumulative trauma injuries are disorders of the upper extremities and head that are work-related. A considerable number of back injuries are also considered cumulative trauma.

Injuries that affect tendons, muscles and ligament structures are considered to be cumulative trauma. Cumulative trauma injuries are caused by repetitious movements and/or prolonged static postures that overload muscles beyond their capacity to recovery immediately. Workers on assembly line, maintenance or repairmen, studio photographers, cashier or stock people could use static postures.

If your doctor has mentioned you have an overuse syndrome, repetitive strain injury, cumulative trauma disorder, bursitis, supraspinatus tendinitis, trigger finger, ganglion cyst, carpal tunnel syndrome, lateral or medial epicondylitis (tennis or golfer’s elbow), tenosynovitis or tenovaginitis or a cervical or cervicobrachial syndrome, you are suffering from cumulative trauma.

Workers often suffer from cumulative trauma as a result of:

  • Lack of a mandatory rotation of job duties
  • Job inexperience
  • A supervisor who permits bad habits to develop or return
  • An overzealous employee who believes that excessive force makes it appear he is doing a better job or that force is needed to perform the job
  • Equipment that is poorly designed, faulty or broken and, as a result, requires more effort to perform the job.
  • A general aggressive attitude or competition among workers.

People who suffer from upper extremities ailments typically have low back pain as well. Office workers who report musculoskeletal pain often develop headaches and eyestrain. Fatigue is a primary precursor to cumulative trauma.

Biomechanical fatigue relates to the bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles. This type of fatigue presents itself as dull pain and aching in the neck and head, upper back, lower back and buttocks. Sometimes the hands and wrists become swollen; weak, painful, tender there may be temperature differences.

With circulatory fatigue, muscles develop myofascial dysfunction and begin to compress the blood vessels. Complaints include swelling, numbness, itching, tingling and temperature differences.

Neurophysiological, or nerve function issues, occur once myofascial dysfunction has begun. Nerve tissues become irritated and compressed. Loss of function and weakness occur.

Systemic fatigue presents itself as chronic tiredness, inability to sleep, pain ranging from dull to shooting sensations and burning feelings throughout the body. Even with adequate sleep, the patient may feel worn-out. Pain and fatigue combine to make the patient irritable and/or anxious.

While employers should make an effort to reduce the risk of cumulative trauma, workers should try to frequently change their positions.

If you have a cumulative trauma injury at work you must promptly report this injury to your employer and seek medical treatment. Also seek prompt legal advice. Tennessee has a one-year statute of limitations.