1) What are ergonomic injuries and how are they caused?
Most people these days have desk jobs that require them to be seated at their desks for 8-10 hours straight. People often fail to realize how much havoc a simple desk job can create in their life. People tend to disregard a lot of simple symptoms by confusing them with symptoms of other conditions and fail to realize that they could be caused by seemingly harmless factors like sitting on a chair for prolonged hours. A lot of health conditions have been said to be caused because of sitting for prolonged hours. Ergonomic injuries affect the muscles, spinal disc, nerves, ligaments, joints etc. Hinged back, back pain, pain in the wrist, stiff neck and shoulder aches are a few of the most common health issues seen due to poor seating posture and continued sitting.
The most commonly suffered ergonomic injuries are;
- Back injuries: are caused by a range of simple movements like bending, twisting, pulling improperly. The nature of your work decides the kind of back injuries you may suffer. Sitting or standing for long periods, maintaining a poor posture while working on the computer etc. can cause lower back pain.
- Headaches/Migraine: can be caused by various reasons. Poor posture is one factor that can cause severe headaches. Sitting in an office with bright or dim lighting, improper laptop screen brightness can cause eye fatigue, itching or burning sensation to the eyes and put excess stress on vision causing migraine/headaches.
- Stiff neck: is caused when the neck is kept rigid for too long in the same position.
- Ganglion cysts: are commonly found on the wrist, fingers, back of the hand caused due to pinching of the nerve. They generally come and go and can be removed surgically. However, sometimes these cysts are extremely painful.
- Carpel Tunnel Syndrome: caused due to repetitive pressure on the median nerve that runs from the shoulder to the arms and hands. The nerve gets pinched and causes a sharp tingling pain in the fingers causing it to become numb and weak. This condition is rather serious and can affect the mobility of an individual by causing partial paralysis.
- Rotator Cuff Injury: is caused due to excessive and repeated motion in the arms and hands causing very little shoulder movement.
Similar to the harm caused to a person’s back due to excessive sitting at work, one’s seating posture while driving can also contribute to back pain. Extensive hours of continuous driving for an hour or more can cause adverse impacts on the drivers back. The common health hazards faced by those who drive for long hours to and from work are high blood pressure, fatigue, back pain etc.
Sitting all day with your arms stretched out to reach the steering can take a toll on one’s body. It is extremely important to maintain the right posture while driving. It is necessary to sit with the knees and hips at the same level. A back support placed between the lower back of the driver and the car seat will provide more comfort and support for the inward curve of the lower back. Drivers must always maintain a comfortable distance from the steering, reaching out to the steering increases the stress on the neck, wrist, and shoulder. A safe and comfortable distance must be maintained as sitting too close or sitting too far can both be harmful.
2) What are the ways in which we can reduce the impact of ergonomic injuries?
As mentioned earlier, working continuously for long hours without taking breaks can cause severe musculoskeletal injuries. By following a few easy measures and ensuring a good physical set up of your office can greatly help prevent injuries caused due to poor ergonomics at work.
- The first important step is to take breaks at regular intervals, say every 30-40 minutes. Stand up and stretch to reduce the risk of repetitive motion injuries.
- Make sure that your work station is comfortable enough and does not stress your body. The screen of your monitor must be aligned with your eye level, so that you do not have to look down or up to the screen.
- Stretch your arms and legs when standing up, relax your shoulders frequently in the sitting position.
- Avoid slouching, place your chair in a way that you can work on your system without having to lean forward or slouch.
- Do not place the monitor screen very close and avoid staring at the screen continuously. Look at objects far away from you in order to give your eye a break.
- Ensure that your feet comfortably touch the ground while sitting on your chair.
- Do not talk on the phone with the receiver between your eye and shoulder.
- If you carry your laptop around with you, carry only what is required to avoid excess heavy weight on the shoulders. Also, make sure you have a laptop bag with shoulder pads on the strap.
3) What are the treatment options that can be undertaken for ergonomic injuries?
Musculoskeletal and vision problems are common in workplaces. Treatment options for health conditions suffered because of poor work conditions depend on the type of health issue suffered. The most basic and common treatment options to relieve pain and return to the easy performance of daily activities are physical therapies such as massages to relieve pain and improve muscle flexibility, spine manipulation massages to relax the muscles and joints and reduce pain. Usage of support devices such as cervical collar and wrist splints, upon recommendation by a specialist can also help gain immediate relief.
If the pain or discomfort is not very extreme, certain home remedies like applying an ice pack and resting the painful area can also help.
4) What steps can employers take to create an ideal work environment?
Employers have to create a positive work environment for the employees in order to get the most of the employees. Creating a positive and safe work environment is essential to create an ideal environment for employees to feel comfortable and dedicated to their work. A few steps employers can take are to:
- Designate a proper work space environment for the employees: Each employee must have a proper space with the necessary accessories to work comfortably.
- Encourage short breaks during work hours: Taking small breaks at regular intervals helps employees be more productive at work. The human body was not designed to sit continuously for prolonged hours and stare at a computer screen.
- Provide access to exercise: Working out for at least 30 minutes a day is a good way to reduce stress and improve productivity. Many offices have their own gyms, employers must encourage their employees to access their gyms in order to encourage a healthy lifestyle among employees.
- Ensuring safety standards in the building: Safety measures in the office can give employees peace of mind as their safety if well taken care of.
These measures will help create a balance between workplace security and overall productivity.
Specialist Orthopaedic Surgeon
Aster Clinic (Saleem Polyclinic), Satwa