Said It Once Before But It Bears Repeating
August 23, 2005
By: Shelagh McNally for Shoulder1
Not only is repetition boring, it is dangerous to your health. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons one in every four Americans suffer from some form of Repetitive Motion disorders (RMDs). Injuries come about from repeating certain tasks over and over, particularly in an unnatural or awkward position, from constant exposure to vibrations or compressions against hard surfaces.
Statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), show that RMDs are the country’s most expensive workplace injury, costing $20 billion in worker’s compensation and $100 billion in lost productivity.
| Could you be at risk for RMD – high risk jobs include:|
Assemblers including electronic assembly
General office clerks
Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks
Welders and cutters
Machine operators (unspecified)
Also known as Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTDs), these injuries are to the musculoskeletal and nervous system. They occur most frequently in the hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders but also in the neck, hips, back, knees, legs, ankles and feet. Symptoms include pain, tingling, numbness, visible swelling, redness and loss of flexibility and strength. The most commonly form of RMD is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CST), an inflammation that start at the median nerve in the wrist, spreading to the hands and up the arm. But tendinitis and bursitis are becoming more frequent, particularly in the male population. Tendinitis is an inflammation of the tendon – the white fibrous tissue connecting muscle to bone that allows for the movement in all the joints in the body. Bursitis is an inflammation or irritation of the connective tissue surrounding a joint. Shoulders are the hot spot with the pain radiating from the front of the shoulder to the side of the arm. All motion, especially lifting and reaching, becomes painful and consequently limited.
| Watch for these RMD symptoms:|
Decreased motion in joint
Cracking or popping of joints
The first step in treating both conditions is to reduce or even stop the motion that caused the symptoms in the first place. It’s important to keep the shoulder immobilized for the first day or two but no longer since there is a risk of developing a frozen shoulder. When stopping work is not possible, it’s recommended that you take frequent breaks to give the shoulder time to rest and apply ice to the affected area two to three times a day at 20 to 30 minute intervals. A regime of stretching and relaxation is often prescribed and pain relievers such as cortisone and anti-inflammatory drugs can also help. Massage and physical therapy often prove successful as well while surgery is almost never recommended.
The best treatment may be prevention. Changing the way you work can reduce and even eliminate RMDs. Improved posture, changing the layout of the equipment, adjusting work pace and frequent breaks to stretch the muscles are all proving to be successful in preventing repetitive injuries. Many companies are now offering Ergonomic programs that address these issues and help employees to work smarter and safer.
In most cases people recover completely from RMDs. The danger lies in not treating the condition immediately since left untreated RMDs can cause permanent damage to muscles, nerves, tendons and creating chronic pain that affects the quality of life. If you notice any signs of RMD, whether its carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis or bursitis, consult your doctor immediately to develop a treatment plan.
Last updated: 23-Aug-05