May 29, 2015
Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) are the most commonly reported work-related injuries and illnesses. Ergonomics is making a positive impact on reducing these incidents; however, MSDs still occur frequently in nearly every job field. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health identified the most likely movements and working conditions that lead to MSDs. Some of the most detrimental activities identified were: repetitive movements, twisting or bending, lifting, pushing or pulling, and awkward or static postures. The following looks at MSDs as they affect separate parts of the body.
Where Your Job Hurts – a Brief Look at Common Work-Related Injuries
- The eyes: problems with staring at a computer screen all day can surface in the form of vision impairment and discomfort. People with Computer Vision Syndrome may experience blurred or strained vision as well as headaches, neck pain, and eye pain. Additionally, the eyes can lose the ability to properly lubricate themselves through tears. Severe dry eyes may be diagnosed as Dry Eye Syndrome. Frequent breaks away from the computer screen are the most effective in minimizing eye problems.
- The neck and shoulders: injuries to the neck and/or shoulders can cause pain at the site or further down the arm and even into the hand. Pinched nerves can cause numbness or tingling, and dysfunction in general can limit range of motion and cause pain and weakness. Reducing the amount of repetitive movements of the neck and shoulders through automation and mechanization is very effective. Additionally, adjusting the height of controls, monitors, and handles ensures proper body mechanics.
- The Wrist and Forearm: disorders here are often considered overuse injuries. They are usually specific to repetitive movements of the fingers and wrist, like pinching, twisting, gripping, and grasping. Symptoms in this area are typically pain, numbness, weakness, and tingling. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and De Quervain’s Disease are common work-related dysfunctions in the wrist and forearm. Using a machine to do repetitive work can help in many industries. Some fields can’t do that as easily but there may be other ways to limit these movements. For example, adding the self-check aisles at stores reduces the number of customers clerks have to check out.
- The Elbow: stress in the forearm at the elbow can also cause pain, numbness, and weakness. Common examples of elbow dysfunction are: Golfer’s Elbow, Tennis Elbow, and Cubital Tunnel Syndrome. Adjusting the weight of an object or tool that is manipulated during elbow flexion can impact the likelihood of elbow stress. Minimizing the force of arm movement when forearm muscles are tight is another preventative measure. Avoiding repeatedly resting the elbows on a hard surface will reduce the risk for Cubital Tunnel Syndrome.
- The Low Back and Legs: low back pain can really do a number on a person’s mobility and ability to function. Sciatica and problems occurring in the vertebral discs are often culprits of this kind of pain. Lifting and twisting are closely related to leg and low back pain, however pushing, pulling, and awkward postures take their tolls, too. Using equipment to move and carry heavy objects is the most obvious solution to these ergonomic issues. Height of an object when it is stored and transported will also make a difference in how the legs and low back are impacted during work tasks.
By the time pain is severe enough for a person to notice, the MSD is often already quite severe. It is important to catch potential work-related injuries before they happen. Failing to do so can lead to high cost and hardship for both the employee and employer.