Preventing Workplace Injuries
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 3.3 million serious work-related injuries occurred in 2009. Having a workplace safety program including education on injury prevention can substantially reduce the number and severity of work injuries, and increase in workplace productivity. Musculoskeletal injuries at workplace may be caused by various activities such as excessive heavy lifting, overexertion, repetitive motion over a long period of time, poor posture habits, fall, etc. Some of the most common workplace injuries are as follows:
Low Back Pain
A back muscle or ligament strain is a common cause of lower back pain. Routine or excessive heavy lifting, repetitive awkward movement, and poor posture with sudden movement may cause or contribute to muscle or ligament stretch or tears.
- Exercise to increase strength and endurance. Abdominal and back muscle exercises are recommended. See our “Low Back Stretches” and “Low Back Strengthening with an Exercise Ball” video.
- Weight. Maintaining a healthy weight helps prevent back pain.
- Standing. Maintain a neutral pelvic position when standing to reduce amount of stress placed on our back muscles.
- Sitting. Choose an ergonomic chair with good lower back support and arm rest. Maintain your knees and hip level.
- Lifting. Use your legs, not your back for lifting. Keep your back straight and bend your knees. Hold the load close to your body to avoid using your back.
Carpal tunnel is a median entrapment neuropathy that causes paresthesia, pain, tingling, numbness, and other symptoms in your hand because of pressure on the median nerve in your wrist. According to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), carpal tunnel syndrome is the most expensive work-related injury. It is caused from repetitive motion such as typing.
- Move around. Exercise and stretch your hand, and finger muscles periodicall.
- Stop any activity that causes numbness or pain in your hand, wrist or finger.
- Take breaks to rest your hands. When doing repeated motions, change your positions and switch hands.
- Maintain correct posture.
- Avoid gripping objects too tightly.
- Keep your hands warm. Those who constantly have cold hands are more likely to develop this pain caused by carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Avoid bending your wrists for long periods. If you work with a computer, remember to keep your forearms at the same level of the keyboard.
- Keep your wrist in a neutral position by wearing a wrist splint.
Tension Neck Pain
Tension neck pain is a common symptom experienced by office workers who use computers regularly. Poor posture, high stress levels and little physical activity are leading causes for computer users to have neck tension at work.
- Adjust your seat height so that your computer monitor is at eye level and directly in front of you. Maintain the back of your chair in an upright position. Adjust the armrest so that your elbows may rest on it and you may reach the keyboard comfortably. Keep your feet flat on the floor.
- Your elbows should be resting on an adjustable armrest and your arms should reach your keyboard comfortably. Your feet should be flat on the floor and the back of your chair should be in an upright position. You should be able to read your computer screen without craning your neck forward.
- Take breaks & stretch. Get up and stretch your neck and shoulder muscles. Don’t stay in one position for long periods.
- Maintain good posture.
Tenosynovitis is an inflammation of the lining of the sheath that surrounds a tendon. It is a cousin to carpal tunnel syndrome. It is generally happens when a person repetitively uses of excessive gripping in a sideways motion, or in pinching forces that use two major tendons in the wrist and lower thumb. The symptoms include stiffness in the joint, pain and swelling near the base of the thumb, and limited range of motion. The most common areas for tenosynovitis are in the hand, wrist and foot where repetitive motion occurs over a long period of time. Tenosynovitis are commonly found in computer operators, racket sport athletes, musicians, and mothers who hold their infants from the awkward hand positions.
- Warm up gradually by stretching and loosening the tendons gently, and then exercise your fingers.
- Take breaks when making repetitive motion. Apply ice to the affected joints to decrease swelling.
- Use an ergonomic keyboard that is designed to reduce the strain on your wrist. A keyboard with a cushion along the base should help you rest your wrists.
- When typing, your hands should hang from your wrists rather than your wrist tendons supporting your hands. Adjust your seat height and wrist position to minimize amount of tension on your wrists.