Common Repetitive Stress Injuries in Construction, and How to Avoid Them

Repetitive stress injuries are fairly common in construction. When you spend a lot of time repeating the same physical tasks over and over, you’re at higher risk. But once you get the injury, it can be tricky to heal and avoid making it worse. Here are a few of the most common types for people who work in construction, and how you can reduce your risk of ending up with one.

Tendonitis
Tendonitis is one of the most common signs of a repetitive stress injury. Different forms of tendonitis often have names associated with certain sports that require a movement repeated over and over. For example, tennis elbow is a type of tendonitis that occurs on the outside of your elbow. Golfer’s elbow, on the other hand, refers to the tendon running along the underside of your elbow. You’ve got tendons everywhere, and any task that causes repeated stretching of those tendons can lead to temporary or long-term damage.

Nerve Issues
The way that you put pressure on your joints can trigger nerve problems. These don’t necessarily involve permanent nerve damage but in some cases, they do. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition where pressure on the wrists and hands leads to pain, tingling, and loss of feeling in the hands and fingers. Cubital tunnel syndrome creates similar feelings in the hands and arms, starting with the elbows. If you’re holding your arm at a 90-degree angle for very long periods of time, you may trigger this condition.

Other nerve conditions relate specifically to types of work common in construction. Hand-arm vibration syndrome, for example, is practically exclusive to construction work. If you work with equipment that vibrates most of the day, every day, you may eventually develop symptoms of this condition. Common signs include muscle aches, tingling or loss of feeling in the arms.

Bursitis
Your joints have little pockets of fluid that help to cushion your joints for impact. These pockets are called bursae. If you engage in activities that put constant pressure on them, they may swell and become painful, which is called bursitis. People are more likely to get bursitis in bigger joints like the shoulder or hip. In most cases, bursitis happens after holding a particular position for long periods of time. For example, if you kneel for hours a day, you may develop bursitis in one or both hips.

Treating Repetitive Stress Injuries
The way to treat repetitive stress injuries depends on the type and the severity. Most of the time, you should start by a visit to a doctor with experience treating these types of conditions, like a sports medicine doctor. They may recommend that you rest the affected joint, which may require some rearranging if the task is one you do every day. Pain-relief components like ice, heat, or over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications may help. Once your condition is starting to improve, you will likely need physical therapy to help rebuild use of the joint without reinjuring it.

Reducing Risk of Injury
Ultimately, your best bet is to avoid creating these injuries in the first place. That may be the most difficult thing since it is so easy to keep going with a task until it is done. Experts recommend that if you want to prevent this type of injury, you should:

  • Change tasks regularly
  • Avoid sitting or standing in the same place for long periods
  • Use pads under your feet or knees
  • Use braces when needed
  • Seek treatment at the first sign of symptoms

As a business owner, you should also encourage your employees to avoid repetitive stress injuries. Making it easy for them to follow healthy practices will help to ensure that they can continue to provide good work into the future.

Repetitive stress injury is a common hazard in construction work, but you may be able to avoid it with these tips. For more information about starting your own contracting business, visit CSLS today!

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