Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders

What are Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders? What can you do in order to protect yourself from developing one? What signs should you look out for? Read this article in order to find out more about this disorder.

Work Related MSD

Related: Ergonomic Solutions, Overhead Material Handling & Ground Level Material Handling

What Are Musculoskeletal Disorders?

Referred to by the Canadian Government as Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders or WMSDs. When you first hear that term it seems very vague, and a little daunting. At first, the only thing that I knew about it when I heard this term was that there is some kind of disorder being caused in workplaces.  So I looked up the definition, which is as follows:

 “Musculoskeletal Disorders or MSDs are injuries and disorders that affect the human body’s movement or musculoskeletal system (i.e. muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, discs, blood vessels, etc.). Common MSDs include Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.”

So what different disorders fall into the musculoskeletal category? 

This list includes: 

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Tendonitis
  • Muscle / Tendon Strain
  • Ligament Sprain
  • Tension Neck Syndrome
  • Thoracic Outlet Compression
  • Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
  • Epicondylitis
  • Radial Tunnel Syndrome
  • Digital Neuritis
  • Trigger Finger / Thumb
  • De Quervain’s Syndrome
  • Mechanical Back Syndrome
  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Ruptured / Herniated Disc

Chances are you have heard of at least one of these disorders, but what causes people to develop them? This answer to this question becomes apparent when you hear the more common name for WMSDs, which is repetitive motion injury.

So if we go over everything we know so far which is WMSDs are developed by completing one task or motion many times throughout a period i.e. typing, sitting/standing in a certain position, twisting, bending or any other combination of movements. The areas that are affected include muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, discs and blood vessels. We also know that WMSDs is a category heading under which many different disorders are listed. 

Signs and Symptoms of a WMSD

So what signs are there of a WMSD that can you look out for if you have a job that requires repetitive motions? There are several stages one can experience when developing a WMSD (though they may not appear in this order).

Early Stage: Aching and tiredness of the affected limb occur during the work shift but disappears at night and during days off work. 

Intermediate Stage: Aching and tiredness occurs early in the work shift and persists throughout the night. 

Late Stage: Aching, fatigue, and weakness persist when resting, an inability to sleep and to perform light duties.

What can you do to help prevent yourself from developing a WMSD?

Here are Some Prevention Tips:

  1. Body and working height

Working at the wrong height can lead to you using a hunched posture, craned neck and straining your eyes. To prevent this ensure that your workstation is at the proper height of your body.

  1. Minimize exertion through the use of a manual roller section or lifting aids.
  1. Reach zones
    1. All containers, equipment and operating elements should be easily accessible.
    2. Torso rotation and shoulder movements (particularly with weights heavier than 1 kg) should be avoided.
    3. Workstations should be designed with three zones in mind:
      1. Primary, for constantly used equipment.
      2. Secondary, for tools and parts that are often reached with one hand.
      3. Reference, for occasional handled items such as reference files.
  1. Parts Presentation

The presentation of parts to the operator is key in minimizing physical exertion and unnecessary movements.  The key areas are:  

  • Frequently used grab containers should be placed at a short distance.           
  • Heavy parts should be stored within easy reach in lower containers.        
  • When possible use a slide rail or roller conveyor to minimize exertion.
  1. Range of vision

Each head turn or change of the line of sight results in lost time and decreases productivity, and more importantly, can cause spinal cord strain.  For the optimal workstation design try to…

  •  Avoid unnecessary eye and head movements.                                                      
  • Vision distances should be as identical as possible to eliminate refocusing.  
  •  Avoid fastening locations not visible to the operator.
  1. Lighting

The correct light, adapted to the activity of the workstation, is a basic precaution to avoiding straining your eyes.  It is therefore important to:

  • Avoid strong lighting contrasts.                                                                        
  • Avoid glare and reflection.                                                                                      
  • Ensure all workstations are free from shadows, flickering and glares.
  1. Adjustment of work equipment.

To maintain performance levels and promote productivity, the correct adjustment of a table, chair, footrest and position of tools and material shuttles must be achieved. This also helps you to avoid straining many parts of your body, thus ensuring you are less likely to develop a WMSD. 

BONUS: Ergonomics is another extremely important way to prevent injuries in the workplace. A way you can bring in ergonomics into the workplace would be to introduce ergonomic robotics which would not only help to prevent injuries but can also help to increase productivity.

Some of the robotics you could install into your workplace to achieve this include:

All of these machines can help prevent you from gaining a Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorder by reducing the amount of weight you lift and stress you place on your body.

It is extremely important to be aware of your body and what it is telling you. If you start to have aches and pains because of a certain task at work inform your manager or try to adjust your workstation to fit your needs better and prevent these aches and pains. Do not let the aches and pains go unattended! Or by the time you do, do something about them it may be too late. Keep in mind the advice given in this blog post and make sure you are not accidentally causing yourself long-term pain when you can prevent it.

Do you have a Musculoskeletal Disorder? Do you know someone who has one? Or do you have any additional advice you want to add?

Comment to share your story or advice!

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