Young woman worker in workroom. Female carpenter using angle grinder.

Common Workers Compensation Claims & Causes

Unfortunately, injuries and illness are a part of life, and it is usually a matter of “when,” not “if” you will experience one. A person’s job can pose higher risks of certain illnesses or injuries based on the requirements of that position, in other words, an exposure risk.  

According to the National Council for Safety, a worker gets injured every 7 seconds in the United States. Including COVID’s impact in recent years, the top causes of occupational injuries are: 

  • Exposure to Disease or Harmful Substances 
  • Overuse & Overexertion 
  • Slips, Trips, and Falls 
  • Direct Trauma or Contact with an Object 

An on-the-job incident can result in a minor inconvenience that only requires minimal first aid or a significant injury that results in workdays and severely interferes with one’s normal activities of daily living. 

By being healthy and learning to protect yourself, you can minimize the likelihood or severity of an incident that significantly affects your life.  

Cuts, Lacerations, and Punctures 

As many as 30% of workplace injuries are cuts or lacerations. The depth of the cut determines the severity of the aftermath. At the far end of the spectrum, a deep laceration that cuts through a tendon often requires surgery and extensive physical therapy. Even worse, a laceration or puncture that pierces a blood vessel or a vital organ is a medical emergency. Thankfully, such emergent accidents are rare, but care should be exercised to prevent these injuries. 

Follow these simple practices to reduce your risk: 

  • Wear long sleeves and all personal protective equipment as outlined by your employer 
  • Keep your workstation and tools organized and tidy 
  • Keep any blades or sharp tools in a separate drawer 
  • Only use tools for their intended purpose 
    • For example: never use a screwdriver as a lever or pry bar 
  • Keep blades or sharp tips in your line of sight when using them 
    • For example: do not reach around an object with a knife, scissors, or other sharp objects 

Sprains and Strains 

A sprain is an injury to a ligament or joint capsule tissue. A strain is an injury to a muscle or its tendon. Sprains or strains can result from repetitive use, overloading of the tissue, or trauma to the area over time. A severe sprain or strain can fully rupture the tissue. Good practice for guarding against sprains or strains, for overuse and traumatic injury types, is to get on an excellent general stretching and strengthening program.  

Tissues such as tendons, muscles, and ligaments are rope-like structures. Every tissue in the body has a failure point, i.e., the amount of tensile load that it can withstand before it reaches a level of deformation or change to its physical characteristics, much like the test-pound rating on a fishing line. The goal of strengthening is to improve the resilience of the tissue to withstand load. The goal of stretching is to improve tissue pliability so that it has more springiness to return to its usual length without fraying or rupturing.  

Back Injuries 

Back injuries are among the most common workplace injuries in the United States. Causes for back pain can vary, from slips or falls to trauma to lifting or exertion. Back pain can even be unprovoked, resulting in poor postures that overload tissues over time.  

It is important to be strong not just in your core but also in your legs to best protect your back. On the topic of “core,” it is good to point out that “core” also includes muscles of the back and not just the “six-pack.”  So be sure to have back muscle-strengthening exercises in your program that is at least equal to the number of ab-strengthening exercises. 

Equally important to strength is flexibility. Tightness in the hip and thigh muscles can tense and misplace the pelvis and spine in sitting, standing, or during movements. This can cause different spine structures to experience increased tension and pressure that can cause injury. Every stretching program should include regular stretching of the hamstrings, hip flexors, glutes, and groin muscles. 

Good lifting mechanics and ergonomics are vital to protecting your back from injury. Some universal principles are consistent with what is a good lift versus a bad one. However, there is a degree of specificity based on the size, shapes, and weights of the lifted items that can influence mechanics. The same goes for a person’s particular workstation. If you feel uncertain about the best way to set up your workstation or how to manage varied materials at work, consult with a Physical Therapist that specializes in Workers’ Compensation and Ergonomics 


Contusion is another word for bruise. Bruises occur as the result of direct trauma that causes some form of tissue damage. The injured tissue causes small blood vessels to leak blood from the tissue, which pools under the skin and forms the dark discoloration hallmark of a bruise. 

Typically, most contusions are low on the spectrum of injury severity. However, the direct blow that causes a contusion can also cause other injuries, from a concussion to a fracture to swelling within a muscle that (when severe) can be a medical emergency. So they are not to be overlooked.  

Best practices for avoiding contusions are to always wear the appropriate personal protective equipment and always be mindful of your surroundings. Having a regular strengthening program also helps your muscle’s ability to produce quick movements of your body, which can aid in sidestepping any incoming object if you can see it coming.  


A fracture is a broken bone resulting from a fall, direct trauma, or overuse. There are several types and severities of fractures. Because most of our bones get a particularly good blood supply, fractures usually heal well if the broken bone fragments are close enough to each other to fuse. When this occurs, surgery can often be avoided. However, sometimes a fracture requires surgery to help realign the broken bone fragments to heal correctly.  

Fractures are quite painful when they occur. Often the injury that breaks the bone also injures other tissues. So, you should do your best to avoid them. Proper training and supervision on using all your materials and machines at work can go a long way to protect against fractures, as does maintaining a good diet and exercise program to keep your bones healthy and strong. 

We are Here for You 

Therapists at Ivy Rehab have experience and training in both helping patients recover from injuries, and ergonomics and injury prevention. If you have experienced an injury, either on the job or off, or have a work position that may expose you to a potential injury, we can help. Click here to find a location near you. 

If you are an employer and have observed a common pattern of work injuries or a high rate of injuries, there are options for Injury Prevention, Ergonomics, and Job Demands Analysis that can meet your needs to reduce injuries and keep your workforce healthy, happy, and productive. Contact a location near you to learn more.

Article By: Matt Lesniak, DPT 

Matt began his PT career 13 years ago, graduating with his DPT degree from Northwestern University in 2009. He loves working with the full range of patients seen in the outpatient environment and has treated individuals from four years to 90+ years old. He believes in the importance of providing rehab plans that integrate creative exercises with manual therapy to help people meet their health and functional goals. Matt specializes in overhead athletes, runners, post-ACL injury, and industrial athletes, including Work Conditioning and FCEs. For those individuals, as with all his patients, he strives to rehabilitate and educate on joint loading and movement patterns to recover from an injury fully and to prevent future recurrence. Matt currently treats patients at Ivy Rehab in Lisle, IL. 

The medical information contained herein is provided as an information resource only, and does not substitute professional medical advice or consultation with healthcare professionals. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-provider relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment or medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition. If you think you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. IvyRehab Network, Inc. disclaims any and all responsibility, and shall have no liability, for any damages, loss, injury or liability whatsoever suffered as a result of your reliance on the information contained herein.

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