Strain and Sprain Injury in the Workplace & Your Right to Workers' Compensation

The Des Moines economy includes many industries where workers face a risk for strain and sprain injury. Healthcare, construction, transportation, warehousing and utilities are all a major part of the area's economic activity. If a worker in one of these industries (or others) suffers a sprain or strain, they can file a workers' compensation claim to cover their medical bills and lost wages.

What are sprains and strains injuries?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, sprains, strains and tears accounted for approximately 40 percent of all workplace injuries nationwide that required time away from work in 2012.

Sprains and strains both involve injury to the soft tissue, but there's a difference between sprain and strain injuries. Sprains are tears of ligaments that connect bone to bone; strains are tears of muscles or tendons that connect muscle to bone.

There are three different grades for these strain and sprain injuries:

  • Grade I - a mild stretching of the soft tissue;
  • Grade II - more serious stretching and maybe some tearing, but not a complete tear of the soft tissue; and
  • Grade III - a complete tear or rupture of the soft tissue.

Causes of Muscle Strains at Work

Any stretching beyond your normal range of movement can cause muscle strain, especially if it involves lifting large amounts of weight. Abrupt movements such as pivoting can also strain your leg muscles. Back muscles are easily strained when a person bends or stretches too far when lifting and carrying objects.

Muscles can also become strained after repetitive use such as in manufacturing occupations where repetitive movements are the norm. 

Stop working and alert your supervisor if you notice any of the following symptoms.

• Swelling, bruising or redness of the skin
• Pain when immobile
• Pain when the muscle or corresponding joint is moved
• Weakness of the muscle or connected tendons
• Immobility of the muscle

Treatments for Des Moines Muscle Strains

After you have reported your injury, you should seek medical care as soon as possible. A doctor will examine the injured area and perform additional imaging tests to confirm or rule out different types of injuries. A confirmed muscle strain is typically treated by applying cold packs and lightly stretching the muscle to reduce swelling. After swelling is down, heat pads can help reduce pain.

Your doctor may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce pain and increase mobility. Rest is another major part of healing a strained muscle, and you may be told to go on light duty or refrain from physical work at all for a period as you recover.

Heed all of your doctor's instructions for your health as well as compliance with your workers' compensation claim. If you are found to be ignoring doctor recommendations for treatment and rehabilitation, your benefits could be cut short.

Iowa's Workers' Compensation System

Workers' compensation provides partial wage replacement and full medical benefits for all work injuries. To qualify, the injury must be caused by a work condition and cannot be the result of the normal build up/tear down of body tissue. Traumatic sprains and strains qualify as compensable injuries in most cases, especially if repetitive tasks or an acute injury causes the soft tissue injury.

Wage replacement benefits are set at 80 percent of the employee's average spendable earnings. The benefits start on the fourth day of absence from work, and if the injury lasts more than 14 days, the employee can receive benefits for the first three days of disability.

Additionally, if the employee returns to work for "light duty" at a lower wage, workers' compensation pays two-thirds of the difference between the two wages.

If an injury becomes a permanent partial disability, workers' compensation pays benefits according to either the employee's impairment rating or loss of earning capacity depending on the location of injury.

If you are considering a workers' compensation appeal or need help filing your workers' comp claim in Des Moines, hire a qualified attorney to represent your interests. Walker, Billingsley & Bair can help you receive all the benefits you deserve under the law. Contact our office at 641-792-3595 to discuss your work injury.

Corey Walker
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With over 20 years legal experience, Corey has been recognized for his work as an injury attorney.