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10 Most Common Ergonomic Injuries & How To Avoid Them

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Tim Rhodes

The most common ergonomic injuries are prevalent in the workplace, affecting a good number of workers leading to lost working time and lowering safety and health standards.

The figures that the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics gives show that at least 33% of ergonomic injuries are from workplaces.

There is no exemption as to which industry can suffer or cant suffer from an ergonomic injury on your muscles, nerves, tendons, or musculoskeletal system.

 It can affect almost all jobs, whether you are a doctor, a nutritionist, a driver, or an accountant. 

The cause of ergonomic injuries is from ergonomic risk factors like insufficient rest breaks, contact stress, awkward postures, exposure to extreme temperatures, static positions, exerting so much pressure on an object, and many other factors.

The length of your exposure to any of these factors determines how severe the ergonomic injury will be, the less the exposure time, the less period the risk factors will prevail, and the less severe it will be.

10 Most Common Ergonomic Injuries And How To Avoid Them

In this article, we explore the most common ergonomic injuries such as lower back injuries, trigger fingers, muscle strains, epicondylitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and tendinitis, amongst others.

1. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common work related injuries, affecting about 3% of women and 2% as the University of Maryland Medical Center accounts.

One can stay at least 27 days away from work and work related activities if found with CTS which makes sense because of the severe impact on one’s health.

Also known as median nerve compression, carpal tunnel syndrome makes your hand feel numb and weak.

In the arm, one has the median nerve that runs across and passes through the carpal tunnel to the hand, and the pressure on the median nerve is what causes this numbness.

The median nerve is responsible for checking the movement of all your fingers other than the pinky finger.

It also controls the feeling of the thumb finger and is thus a very painful ergonomic injury.

Causes

Some of the causes and risk factors of carpal tunnel syndrome include:

  • Monotonous movements such as typing and moving your wrist continuously, so if your job involves repetitive motion of the hand, you are more likely to get this injury
  • CTS can also occur due to pregnancy and other health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and rheumatoid arthritis

Symptoms

The symptoms for this ergonomic injury start with the constant numbness and weak feeling on one’s thumbnail and other fingers other than the pinky fingers.

Most times, the symptoms start to reveal during the night since people tend to sleep while bending their fingers, thus exerting pressure on the median nerve.

As time goes by, the symptoms may manifest during the day, and mostly this will happen to people who do activities that involve the continuous movement of the wrist.

Other symptoms one may also encounter are feeling like one’s fingers are swollen, a sharp pain traveling from your forearm up to the shoulder, and shocks in your fingers and thumb.

The symptoms vary from less severe to more severe ones with the latter making one lose their sense of touch from the thumb; hence one can’t differentiate a cold and a hot item.

Preventing CTS

You can prevent and reduce the risk factors leading to carpal tunnel syndrome by:

  • Reducing the number of times, you move your hands
  • Try and ensure that your writs are in a straight position
  • Avoid stress on your hands by alternating on different activities especially in your work environment
  • Keep your arm unbending as you sleep by wearing a splint

2. Tendinitis

Tendinitis is another common ergonomic injury that causes the tendon to inflame, causing pain outside a joint.

Human beings have many different tendons and this condition can occur in any of one’s muscles.

 However, it is most common to cords around the knee, wrists, shoulder elbow, and heels.

It is easy to treat most tendinitis conditions through resting, taking medicine, and physical therapy sessions.

In some cases, this injury may be severe, especially when a tendon ruptures, forcing one to go for surgery.

Causes

Tendinitis being an ergonomic injury most occurs due to repetitive movement of the hand from time to time, causing a strain on the tendon.

One need to employ proper mechanism while undertaking tasks that require repetitive movements.

 Failure to observe this may overstress the tendon leading to tendinitis.

This injury mostly occurs to people whose jobs involve awkward positions, vibrations, forceful exertions, and repetitive movements.

Symptoms:

  • Pain when one moves the joint with tendinitis
  • Puffiness around the joint
  • Tenderness

Preventing Tendinitis:

  • If you are exercising any activity that exerts stress on the tendon, causing some pains, you should rest and exercise
  • Ensure proper work ergonomics, by ensuring that your work related instruments such as the chair, table, and desktop are in the right position to protect the tendons and joints from much stress
  • After doing a task for some time, take time to stretch to increase your joints’ movements
  • Ensure you strengthen your muscles from time to time so that they can bear the stress

3. Rotator Cuff Injury

The rotator cuff constitutes four muscles that help move and stabilize one’s shoulder such that by moving one’s shoulder, the rotator cuff supports and helps to move the joint.

This ergonomic injury will cause some mild pain in the shoulder that may worsen as one uses the arm away from the entire body.

The injury is more prevalent in people whose jobs require repetitive overhead motions such as painters and carpenters, and the effect increases with age.

Physical therapy and undertaking various exercises that help stabilize and strengthen the muscles are significant remedies for this ergonomic injury.

Significant rotator cuff injury is not easy to fix, and the only option one may have to replace the tendons or joints.

Causes

Some of the risk factors that lead to this ergonomic injury include:

  • Significant injury to the shoulder
  • It may also occur due to wearing out of the tendon tissue
  • Recurring overhead activities
  • When one lifts heavy loads for a long time, it may damage the tendon in the long run

Symptoms

The symptoms for rotator cuff injury include:

  • Dull pain in the shoulder
  • It may be challenging to move your shoulder while performing an activity such as combing the hair and reaching one back
  • General weakness in the arm
  • One may have a hard sleeping time, especially on the shoulder with a rotator cuff injury

Preventing Rotator Cuff Injury:

  • Ensure that you carry out exercises that will strengthen your shoulder, especially if your occupation requires that you frequently use your shoulder
  • You should consult a physical therapist to give you the stretches and exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff

4. Epicondylitis

The two common types of this ergonomic injury are the tennis elbow known as lateral epicondylitis and golfer’s elbow, which is also known as medial epicondylitis.

Epicondylitis is the damage that occurs to the epicondyle area of the bone.

The epicondyle is a bone protrusion that is above the condyle in which ligaments and tendons attach.

Tennis elbow occurs due to overstressing the elbow tendons mostly due to having repetitive movements of the hand.

This ergonomic injury affects most people whose occupation involves continuous movements of the wrist and the arm such as painters and carpenter.

Medial epicondylitis affects the inner parts of one’s elbow, and the injury occurs when the tendons in the forearm join the inside part of the elbow that has bones.

Medial epicondylitis affects mostly affects people who carry most activities using the arm and the wrists.

Causes:

  • The most common cause of lateral and medial epicondylitis is the repetitive motion of the muscles that control the entire hand
  • There is also a chance that people between the ages of 30 and 50 are at risk of getting this injury
  • Developing this injury also depends on the activities that one does

For example, lateral epicondylitis can affect most mechanics, carpenters, and painters.

Symptoms

The signs for medial epicondylitis include:

  • Weakness in the hand and the wrist area
  • Your elbow may feel stiff
  • One may have a hard time while trying to move the elbow
  • One’s fingers may feel numb

The signs for lateral epicondylitis include:

  • One may feel pain at the bony knob of the elbow, and the pain may move through your entire arm
  • Most times, you will feel the pain when you raise your hand and lift something

You Can Prevent Epicondylitis By:

  • Before you carry out any repetitive tasks, ensure that you stretch your arms
  • Try to practice excellent physical fitness
  • Check your work environment and ensure that you use equipment that will reduce epicondylitis injury
  • Ensure that you regularly stretch to ensure the great connection of the tissue around your elbow

5. Trigger Finger

This is also a common ergonomic injury that affects one’s finger when there is an inflammation that makes the space between the sheath surrounding the tendon narrows.

The severity of this ergonomic injury may make the finger stay in a bent position.

Typically this is a condition whereby one of your fingers stays bent for a while.

When one tries to straighten the finger, you will get a snap sound.

Trigger fingers may affect people whose scope of work requires that they monotonously grip into things.

One can get treatment for this ergonomic injury, but it varies depending on how severe it affects you.

 Causes

One leading cause for the trigger finger is carrying out repetitive actions that can cause stress on one’s hand.

In the fingers, there are small bones from which tendons connect them to the muscles, and the cords are responsible for pulling one’s bones so that the fingers can move when the muscles contract.

The flexor tendons that run through the forearm to one’s muscles slip to the flexor tendon sheath, whereby it may narrow, making the cord not move quickly, ultimately causing a trigger finger.

Symptoms:

  • The finger may become stiff
  • One may feel a clicking sound as you move the finger
  • The finger will stay in a bent position

Preventing Trigger Finger:

  • Avoid activities that require you to hold something repeatedly
  • You can wear a splint as you sleep
  • One can do gentle exercise to keep the fingers flexible

6. Muscle Strains

A muscle strain will occur when one muscle is torn.

Often, this will happen due to overuse, exhaustion, and not using the muscle properly.

Muscle strains are most common in the shoulder, neck, and back, though they can occur in anybody’s muscles.

The effect of a muscle strain is pain, and it may also affect how one moves depending on where the muscle strain affects.

Muscle strains may vary from mild to severe with the mild ones having a home remedy, while with the severe ones, one needs to seek medical attention.

Causes

 Here are some causes and risk factors of muscle strains:

  • Overstressing of a muscle
  • It may also occur where one lacks flexibility
  • It may also occur when one fails to exercise before carrying out an activity
  • Lifting heavy items

Symptoms

Some symptoms of muscle strains include the following:

  • You may swell at the point of straining
  • One may experience muscle cramps
  • Sudden pain in your muscle
  • You may also notice some discoloration in your body
  • General weakness and stiffness

Prevention Measures

To prevent muscle strains, one can do some of these activities:

  • Ensure that you sit uprightly
  • When lifting heavy items, lift them properly
  • Carry out exercises that will strengthen your muscles
  • Make sure that you check your body weight

7. Lower Back Injury

Lower back pain and injury is another common ergonomic injury that occurs either in the form of muscle strains or lumbar sprain.

Muscle strain will occur due to the overstretching of muscle fibers, while lumbar sprain will occur due to the straining of ligaments.

So it is clear that the cause of most cases of back pain is damage to tissues such as tendons, fibers, and ligaments.

Soft tissues help keep one’s body in an upright posture and supporting the upper body part, and this is what the lower sine depends on.

Exerting too much stress on the muscles in the lower back can cause damage to the tissue.

As such, the muscles become weak, making it hard to hold the bones around the spinal column, making it less stable, causing lower back pain and injury.

Causes

Some roots of lower back pain and injury include:

  • Carrying out activities that exert too much pressure on the lower back
  • Lower back injuries may also occur when one falls
  • Repetitive bending may also cause this injury
  • It may also occur due to repetitive lifting heavy items

Symptoms

Some of the signs of lower back injuries include:

  • General back pain
  • The back may become stiff
  • The pain may be severe as one tries to stretch

Preventing Lower Back Injury

To prevent lower back pain and back injuries, one should:

  • Exercise regularly to enhance the flexibility of the muscles
  • Ensure that they sit with the right posture
  • Use a proper mechanism while lifting heavy items
  • Avoid bending frequently
  • Ensure that you eat healthy food to maintain a great body

8. Arthritis

In most cases, arthritis affects tissues and joints that surround other connective tissues.

Depending on how this ergonomic injury occurs, the severity may differ from person to person.

Arthritis may occur in the form if symptomatic knee osteoarthritis or symptomatic hand osteoarthritis.

The main characteristic of these two injuries is recurrent pain around joints in the legs or hands.

This ergonomic injury can affect a worker depending on the working conditions.

Some workplaces in which this injury may be prevalent are in the mining sites, construction sites, various industries such as the service industry, and the agricultural sectors.

These workplaces mostly involve carrying out challenging tasks, awkward working postures, lifting bulky goods.

Such challenging and poor working conditions cause a strain in the muscles leading to arthritis.

Causes

Osteoarthritis, the most prevalent form of arthritis, causes the joint cartilage to tear.

Rheumatoid arthritis causes the immune system to attack the joint capsule lining making it to inflame.

Symptoms

The symptoms of arthritis include:

  • Pain in the joints
  • One may experience inflammation in the areas around the joints
  • You may not be able to move the joints freely
  • Weakness in body muscles

Prevention Measures For Arthritis

Some of the ways one can prevent arthritis are by:

  • Maintaining good posture as you work
  • Ensure you carry out appropriate exercises such as walking and swimming
  • One should take time to relax in case of tiredness
  • One should carry out various activities with the right energy
  • Ensure that you eat a healthy diet

9. Neck Injuries

Most neck injuries in workplaces occur due to excessive stress on the neck, causing straining on the neck muscles.

Excess stress may also lead to wearing out of the joints.

The pain that one may experience may go beyond the shoulders and the back and, at times, lead to headaches.

Most work activities that require one to have their head bent for an extended period will most likely lead to a neck injury.

This type of ergonomic injury is prevalent among workers who use computers and therefore end up keeping the monitor at a place that is not appropriate to carry out a task for an extended time.

It is good to realize that a neck injury, like other injuries that affect the musculoskeletal system, is expensive to treat, especially in critical cases, and workers should do what they can to avoid it.

Causes

Some causes of neck injuries include:

  • A neck injury may occur when one strains their neck when lifting an item from the ground
  • It can also occur when you bend your neck for a long time
  • Also, when you wrong neck postures

Symptoms

When having a neck injury, one may experience some of these symptoms:

  • Pain around the neck area
  • The pain may move to the shoulders and back
  • Swelling of the neck
  • Minimal movements of the neck

Preventing Neck Injuries

To prevent neck injuries, one may do some of the following things:

  • Maintain good posture when either standing, working or sitting
  • Ensure you take frequent breaks if you involve bending the neck
  • Avoid carrying heavy loads or, instead, take what you feel you can
  • Maintain right sleeping positions

10. Knee Injury

Knee injuries are a common ergonomic injury, especially in work related activities that require so much energy.

A knee injury may come to inform fractures of the knee bones, meniscal injuries, splits, and ligament injuries.

 Football players are in the best position to explain the various knee injuries that affect them since it is common among them.

This does not; however, exempt other people from different occupations to suffer from knee injuries.

Simple activities such as moving items from one place to another most commonly exert too much stress on the knee.

We use the knee for different activities such as sitting, moving, climbing, and as such, it is more susceptible to injuries.

Causes

  • Falling from a place whether low or high may lead to a knee injury
  • Exerting too much pressure on the knee
  • A knee injury may also occur when an object strikes it

Preventing Knee Injury

  • A company can redesign its working space to ensure that the workers don’t strain as they walk
  • Ensure that you take time to relieve pressure in the knee if you knee or squat for a long time
  • One can carry out various exercises that will help strengthen the knee muscle
  • One should also maintain a healthy body weight

Final Thoughts

Comfortability, as one is working, ensures excellent productivity among the workers.

Firms and the worker themselves should take the role to ensure that they are okay with their working conditions, so better results.

The most common ergonomic injuries may be severe and threaten someone’s life, and failure to seek immediate medical attention may be hazardous, prevention is better than cure.

Different injuries have various prevention measures that one can take.

This will ease the health impact that the ergonomic injury may pose.

Excellent health should be your priority before you start working.

As such, one’s concentration will be high and in return, one will be able to produce high excellent work output.

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