An overexertion injury happens when a person attempts a task beyond their physical capacity. The most standard example is when an individual attempts to lift something that is too heavy for them. Overexertion injuries are among the most common work injuries. They can encompass a wide range of different injuries, such as sprains and strains, back injuries, muscle tears, and joint injuries.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the second leading cause of on-the-job injuries and accidents is overexertion and repetitive stress.
If you push yourself too hard, whether you are returning to work after not being as active as usual or an essential worker working overtime, you can strain your body. This can happen when you lift, push, or pull something too heavy for you. Symptoms of a musculoskeletal disorder include swelling, numbness, stiffness, chronic pain, or the gradual loss of mobility in muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints caused by overexertion. Debilitating pain, medical bills, physical therapy, and lost time at work can result from these injuries.
Common Types of Overexertion Injuries at Work
Overexertion work injuries can result from several types of work tasks. Poor instructions, unsafe working conditions, or other factors are often responsible for them. Examples of overexertion injuries include:
- Boxes being lifted overhead
- Pulling or pushing crates
- Carrying heavy items for long periods of time
- Long periods of standing, sitting, bending, or remaining in an awkward position
- Performing repetitive tasks may result in repetitive stress injuries
- Poor ventilation at work
- Extreme temperatures, hunger, thirst, etc.
- Walking or moving for too long without taking a break
Therefore, overexertion injuries can vary from case to case. A worker’s recovery depends in large part on their abilities at the time of injury, as well as the type of work involved. An individual who is capable of performing a task might be injured if another tries to do it.
Following these simple practices will help prevent overexertion and repetitive stress movements, which can have long-term health consequences.
- When lifting a heavy object, use proper lifting techniques. You should face the load with your feet shoulder-width apart and your back straight, squat by bending at the hips and knees, and then use your leg and stomach muscles to lift the load.
- Lift and carry heavy or awkward objects with the help of a cart or hand truck.
- Instead of trying to “muscle” your way through a job alone, ask for help.
- Don’t add an extra package or box to a load that is already full. Make an extra trip or ask someone to help.
- Your workstation should be arranged to minimize reaching, bending, twisting, and other awkward postures.
- While doing strenuous tasks, take short breaks so you can stretch and relax tense muscles.
- Exercise, stretching, and maintaining a strong core are all beneficial for preventing injury.
- Every 20-30 minutes, take frequent breaks from any static position.
- Move frequently used items closer to you, use a footrest, and adjust the height of your computer if you work at a desk.
- Report any pain, swelling, numbness, tingling, tenderness, clicking, or loss of strength to your doctor before it becomes a full-blown injury.
Overexertion-Related Injuries in the Workplace
Lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying, and the like can result in a number of injuries.
Overexertion can cause the following injuries:
- Back injuries: Injury to the back is the most common overexertion injury. This can range from mild strains to severe spinal cord injuries. Surgery may be required for some back injuries, which can render the employee incapacitated for quite some time. Physical therapy may also be required for some back injuries.
- Strained muscles: A strained or pulled muscle often occurs when employees overexert themselves when lifting, pushing, pulling, or carrying. Although muscle strains may not appear serious, they can interfere with an employee’s ability to perform their job.
- Neck injuries: Any injury to the neck can be debilitating, as the neck is a sensitive part of the body. Overexertion in the workplace often leads to neck injuries.
- Injuries to joints, tendons, and connective tissues: These tissues are intricately involved in the act of lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, and carrying. The overuse of these vital parts of the body can result in tendon tears, joint dislocations, and inflamed connective tissue.
- Heat exhaustion: Overexertion injuries include heat cramps and heat exhaustion. Many manual laborers suffer heat stroke in the summer, but it can happen all year long in some factory settings.
Certain industries, such as construction, are more likely to have overexertion injuries, but employees can overexert themselves in any situation.
The Employer’s Role in Overexertion Injuries
Employers often have a role in causing overexertion injuries. Employers can control certain risk factors. For example, some overexertion injuries are caused by:
- Employees who work too long without taking a break
- Lack of proper training
- Having to perform tasks beyond their physical capabilities
Receiving Workers’ Compensation for Overexertion Injuries
Regardless of the cause, if an employee is injured in the course of their employment and it is timely reported to their employer, they may have a workers’ compensation claim. You are best served by discussing your situation with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.
Is Overexertion Only a Problem at Work?
An overexertion injury results from overexerting your muscles or spraining your ligaments. Repetitive motions cause this type of injury. Pulling, pushing, lifting, and holding all involve the risk of overexertion. This is not limited to the workplace.
Squatting to pick up shoes, or even carrying loads of laundry, can cause a strain or sprain. Many people carry this weight without even realizing it. Daily tasks such as picking up children, shopping, or receiving packages are commonplace. If you lift incorrectly, you’re more likely to develop an injury sooner rather than later.
Surgery for Strains and Sprains
Strains and sprains sometimes require surgical intervention. Employees sometimes suffer in silence. They don’t speak up about sore backs and knees. Eventually, the injury worsens. Other people simply run out of treatment options.
Surgery can be scheduled if an employee isn’t getting better. It is still possible to do a range of motion exercises and strengthening exercises even if surgical intervention is required.
What Should I Do After Suffering an Overexertion Injury?
An overexertion injury can cause the employee to miss days, weeks, or even months of work.
They may often end up on some sort of disability discharge for a period of time. You should seek immediate medical attention if you suffer an injury at work. You may then take the following steps:
- Inform your boss or supervisor of the incident; notify HR if necessary
- As needed, file a claim for workers’ compensation
- A government agency, such as the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, may investigate some cases of workplace injuries
- If further legal remedies are needed, file a lawsuit
Do I Need a Lawyer?
Overexertion injuries can sometimes have long-lasting effects. You may need to hire a workers’ compensation lawyer if you need to file a disability claim or a lawsuit. In addition to helping you with paperwork, filings, and other tasks, your attorney can also provide you with legal advice. Your attorney can also represent you in court if you are required to appear.