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The Role of Ergonomics on Workplace Musculoskeletal Conditions

woman experiencing back pain at work

Looking to stay healthy at work so you can enjoy the passions in your life? Tennis, golf, or gardening should not be synonymous with tendonitis, lower back pain, and numbness, especially if you think some of this pain may be occurring at your worksite.

Work related musculoskeletal conditions are among the frequently reported causes for lost or restricted work time. Common workplace musculoskeletal conditions include, but are not limited to, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, rotator cuff injuries, trigger finger and muscle strains and low back injuries. The following are associated high risk occupations with ergonomic hazards such as repetitive movement, manual handling, workplace/job/task design, uncomfortable workstation height and poor body positioning:

  • Healthcare workers such as Nurses, Nursing Assistants or Psychiatric Aides
  • Firefighters and prevention workers
  • Laborers and freight, stock and material movers
  • Janitors and cleaners
  • Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers
  • Refuse and recyclable material collectors
  • Stock clerks and order fillers
  • Maids and housekeeping cleaners
  • Light truck or delivery services drivers
  • Telecommunications line installers and repairers
  • Bus drivers
  • Production workers
  • Police and sheriff patrol officers
  • Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers
  • Plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters
  • Maintenance and repair workers, general

Stretching techniques such as forearm muscle stretches aid in the prevention of tendonitis. Seated pelvic exercises can help activate your lumbar stabilizers.

  • Did you know your head weighs between 10-12 lbs. and having your neck in a forward posture put upwards of 40 lbs. of stress on your spine?

Most of the load comes from our heads in a sitting posture. Sitting more than 1 hour in an upright slumped or leaning forward position leads to increased discomfort at the neck, upper back, hips and lower back.

  • Did you know tennis elbow is actually a problem that occurs at the wrist?

Tennis elbow occurs from over use of the wrist extensor muscles and damage to their attachment on the outer bone of the elbow. This equates to pain with gripping, lifting, reaching and repetitive finger grasping or extension.

  • Did you know that employees who primarily sit are predisposed to muscular and skeletal disorders due to immobility, decreased use of muscles stabilizing the spine, and maintenance of poor posture?

It is recommended to take a posture break every hour for 5 minutes while working at a sedentary job. Keeping the muscles active along the spine particularly in a standing posture or during a brief walk helps minimize injury as standing put the least amount of stress on the spine.

  • Has your workspace had an ergonomic assessment?

Your employer will be able to direct you on the best way to order an ergonomic assessment. A trained professional will come to your workstation and take photos or measure your station to ensure you are working as ergonomically as possible. You may be offered suggestions for alternate desk and chair heights, keyboard options, and monitor height alterations.

  • Does your desk allow you to stand?

The more significant changes in posture promote increased gentle muscle activation, which in turn lowers your risk of injury.

Ergonomics plays a vital role in our workplace health and preventing injury!

Sarah Giacalone is an upper extremity rehabilitation specialist working at HSS Sports Rehab in Stamford, CT. Sarah has been practicing in the outpatient hand and upper extremity field for 16 years working in many state of the art facilities in New England alongside prestigious hand surgeons. Sarah’s passion is restoring functional and meaningful activity in the upper extremity while reducing pain. 

The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.