Many work-related injuries occur over time. The major causes for strain of the body include poor posture, poor lifting techniques, prolonged positions and repetitive motions. Any one of these can cause injuries known as repetitive strain injuries.
Repetitive strain injuries or RSI’s can occur even when repetition is not part of your daily routine. Maintaining a position out of neutral (halfway through the available range of motion) can increase the risk for musculoskeletal distress, as can direct pressure on a nerve or tendon. Sudden, fast motions – even small exertions of force can open the body up to injury. Cold temperatures or vibrations of the hand or whole body when using heavy equipment are also common culprits increasing the likelihood of injury.
RSI’s are typically easier to prevent than to treat. Prevention is as easy as determining the source and taking steps to correct the problems. Simple solutions include making sure work stations are arranged to your comfort while you are properly aligned and relaxed; taking short, frequent breaks to stretch out during the day; and staying away from positions near the extremes of your available range of motion.
But even so, sometimes, RSI’s are unpreventable. It is important to take notice early and do something about it before it gets out of control. Early warning signs may include persistent pain, numbness, tingling, burning or aching. They may be constant or only occurring with motions or awkward postures. You should never ignore pain – it is your body signaling that something is wrong.
But sometimes, not matter what you do to change your environment or your work habits, you suddenly find yourself stricken with pain. And take heed, every solution has a potential drawback!
1.Too much rest. Rest is important to let your body heal. But too much rest can cause your muscles to weaken. Consult with a qualified medical professional as to when a light exercise program and work should be resumed.
2.Medications. Overuse of medications – even over-the-counter preparations can cause things like stomach problems, addiction and further injury by changing your perception of pain, thus allowing you to possibly do too much. Take medications only as prescribed.
3.The use of ice and heat. Most people dislike using ice packs with injuries – it can be very uncomfortable and sometimes painful. But in fact, using ice for the first 24-48 hours after an injury is beneficial in reducing the amount of inflammation. Care must be taken to avoid too much cold or frostbite of the body part may occur. It is best to use ice in the form of a covered pack for no longer than 20 minutes at a time. Do not apply ice directly to the skin – leave that to the professionals!
And whereas heat can intensify inflammation, it is most recommended for chronic pain to help ease pain. Burning of the skin and muscles can occur easily, so never sleep with a heating pad. The most recommended form of heat is a moist heat pack.
4.Changing workstations. Setting up your workstation to best suit your posture is a good way to start, but considerations must be taken for years of improper posture. No one has perfect posture and trying to set up a workstation for perfect posture may indeed cause musculoskeletal distress. First go for comfort, keeping in mind optimal posture. Postural changes do not occur overnight. Be conscious of poor posture and be consistent in trying to rectify it, yet be ready for some temporary soreness and strain as a result. Be ready to modify work areas frequently.
5.On-the-job exercise routines. Many employers recognize the benefit of regular exercise and may institute exercise programs for their employees. Care must be taken here, for if these routines are not instructed and overseen by a trained professional, more injuries may result. Many people do not know the proper way to exercise and special considerations must be taken for those with a pre-existing condition. Doing the wrong types of exercises or performing the right ones the wrong way may increase the chances of an injury or worsen an injury. Too much force with a stretching routine, for example, can cause the muscles to tear.
6.Training programs. While training programs for things like proper lifting or specific task techniques are beneficial in most cases, those already suffering from chronic pain may need some alterations. And if workstation changes are non-existent, offering only training programs can cause increased stress, frustrations and pain.
7.Job rotations. Many positions requiring heavy repetition may have a rotation system in place. Rotations are beneficial to decrease the monotony of highly repetitive jobs. However, proper training of each station is a must. And for job rotation to be successful in decreasing RSI’s, the different job must use different muscles or use the same muscles in a different way to provide the theoretical resting of the heavily used body part.
8.Braces/Splints. Utilizing things like wrist splints or back belts may be helpful in the resting phase of healing, but they in no way help fix or prevent injuries. In fact, the use of a wrist splint while working may cause awkward compensation of the body due to the stationary position of the wrist. Splinting during rest, however, may be helpful in maintaining proper positioning. The caution with splinting with sleeping is the risk of increasing stiffness and decreasing range of motion.
Back belts provide no evidence of preventing back injuries. In fact, they can give the user a false sense of security, prompting attempts for activities that otherwise would be avoided. Utilizing a back brace with lifting will provide some support, but most wear them all the time, thus lending to the weakening of the abdominal and the back muscles. Worn incorrectly, the back belts can increase the pressure in the abdomen. This could be especially harmful for those who have certain cardiovascular diseases.
There is no magical cure for on-the-job injuries and each treatment protocol should be individualized to meet the needs of each person. Always consult with your physician and follow his recommendations. Self-treatments can be dangerous and lead to further injuries, as can ignoring your body’s warning signs – namely pain. Pain is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign something is wrong, and ignoring it may cause further pain and debilitation.