Ergonomic Injuries

Written by Sierra Rein
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Although OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) typically refrains from utilizing the phrase "ergonomic injury," it defines the concept behind it as any musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) brought upon by work-related activities. Ergonomic injuries, those that have to do with physical labor or working with communications machines, plague many businesses and account for a large percentage of missed days and workers compensation costs. To reduce the chance of injuries taking place, many employers have to look at ergonomic issues and take the time to make their workspace more efficient and easier to maneuver around in.

Types of Ergonomic Injuries and Their Symptoms

Basically, there are two main types of ergonomic injuries: acute and chronic. Acute injuries occur when a single event takes place, usually having to do with lifting something, blocking something, or an instant occurrence of bearing a large amount of weight. Chronic ergonomic injuries become apparent over a long period of time and are the result of a long line of smaller, less noticeable, injuries. Damage due to repetitive stress (as in a case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome) can be categorized as a chronic injury and is prevalent amongst office workers, typists, machine builders, sewers, artisans, supermarket grocery baggers, and anyone who may repeat the same arm movement hundreds of times during the workday.

Acute ergonomic injuries are easy to spot, as the pain is usually instantaneous, while chronic injuries are less easy to recognize. Indications of chronic injuries include discomfort, pain or soreness, stiffness and a limited range of motion, redness, swelling, fatigue and clumsiness, or tingling that ends up numbing the joint. If left untreated over a long time, these seemingly mundane symptoms can lead to extreme pain and immobility.

Chronic ergonomic injuries are the most common in the lower back and the upper limbs, particularly in the forearms and wrists. However, they can also occur in other parts of the body. Most of these injuries occur to nerves, tendons, ligaments, muscles, and joint connections and can be prevented through the use of strengthening exercises, braces, and proper ergonomic positioning during long bouts of repetitive work.

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