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Of the federal government’s 2.6 million employees, approximately 40% (1.1 million) are professional, technical, scientific or clerical workers, who spend the large majority of their work time intensively typing on a computer keyboard or using a mouse. With newer computers such as tablets or ultrabooks, the use of touchscreens is increasing rapidly. However, whatever type of computer ones uses, one must use ones’s hands, wrists, arms and shoulders to manipulate the keys, mouse or touchscreen involved.

Our bodies are not designed for this type of intense repetitive use of the hand and arm, usually under moderate to heavy deadline pressure. This activity pattern, combined with limited control over one’s workflow, not infrequently gives rise to a host of disorders resulting from the strain caused by the above noted work activities: carpal and cubital tunnel syndromes; tendinitis, tendinopathy or tenosynovitis of the wrist or shoulder, lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow), adhesive capsulitis (shoulder only), DeQuervains’ disease (fingers and hand only), and chronic cervical or neck strain.

The prevalence of these illnesses in the federal work force has not been studied in a number of years, but other research studies in the U.S. and other developed countries, put the prevalence of these conditions in the general population at between .05% and 2.2%. However, the prevalence of repetitive use injuries as they are now known is much higher among some employee populations than others. Among so called white collar occupations, clerical and data processing workers and professionals are most vulnerable to the family of conditions noted above.

Among former OWCP claims examiners I am familiar with, the estimate is that about 20% or all orthopedic claims received by OWCP, which themselves constitute 50% of all FECA claims, involve repetitive strain of the arms and neck or about 57,500 of the total 115,000 filed annually. This means that federal employees file some 11,500 repetitive use or strain claims per year. However, the number of claims filed does not equal the number of claims accepted.

The reason for this is that many, many federal employees are not familiar with the most important aspect of such claims: documenting how your work processes cause, aggravate or precipitate the arm or neck condition you suffer from. At Pines Federal , we have significant expertise across dozens of federal occupations, as well as their job duties, and the current medical research that supports findings of causal relationship between your medical condition and your job.

One thing not to do: Many employees, ignorant of these requirements, report as traumatic incidents what are really flare ups of chronic arm or neck conditions. This can ruin your chances to win an occupational disease claim and get the benefits you need to continue working. Rather than take such a chance, let the professionals at Pines Federal show you how to do things the right way, and obtain the workers compensation benefits you deserve.

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Eric L. Pines is a nationally recognized federal employment lawyer, mediator, and attorney business coach. He represents federal employees and acts as in-house counsel for over fifty thousand federal employees through his work as a federal employee labor union representative.

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