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Why you can’t ignore the signs of cumulative trauma on the job

If you work a manually intensive job, such as manufacturing or loading, you likely experience occasional twinges of pain and discomfort as part of your profession. After all, your physical exertion is part of the job, and it’s natural to have some negative consequences for that work after a hard day or a bad night of sleep. A little tightness in your lower back or even blisters on your fingers could just be a sign of a hard day at work, not necessarily of any sort of serious injury.

However, when you start noticing persistent symptoms in the same area, even if the symptoms themselves are relatively mild, you likely need to start considering the potential for a cumulative trauma injury. Cumulative trauma, which is not unlike repetitive motion injuries, is a kind of workplace injury that occurs from repeatedly straining or injuring the same part of the body over and over again.

Cumulative trauma injuries will get worse with time, especially if they go untreated and the worker continues to exacerbate them by performing the same task that caused the initial injury. Care for cumulative trauma injuries includes taking breaks from certain tasks or even time off of work altogether to completely rest the injured limb or extremity.

How do you recover from cumulative trauma?

In order for your injuries to get better, you will need to rest the affected area. Sometimes, that means total rest for several days or even weeks. Some people can continue working by performing other tasks while recovering, while others cannot work at all during their convalescence. In extreme cases, surgery may become necessary.

What happens when you don’t treat a cumulative trauma injury?

With a headache, if you just power through the pain, when you get through to the end of the day, things will get better. After your adult has an over-the-counter analgesic medicine, you likely won’t even notice the headache symptoms anymore. While painkillers could help you mitigate some of the symptoms you experience from a potential cumulative trauma injury, such as pain in your hands when you grip or pain in your back when you turn, they won’t relieve the underlying cause.

If you don’t get care and get the rest that your body will need to recover, the injury may continue to get worse, increasing the level of pain and decreasing the level of function you can likely hope to maintain in the future. You may require workers’ compensation benefits if you need to take time off during your recovery.