According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, preventing musculoskeletal disorders is possible by simply fitting jobs to workers rather than the other way round. This is called ergonomics, which can improve any workplace — from factory floors to offices. After examining a numerous variety of jobs in industries in which the prevalence of MSDs is high, ergonomists have been able to determine the risk factors.
Another name for the injuries resulting from bad ergonomics is repetitive strain injuries because repetitive motions typically cause musculoskeletal disorders. The disorders include tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, lower back muscle injuries and other muscle strains.
If you earn your living in an administrative position where you carry out the same motions for hours on end, you may find that the pain and discomfort you experience may be due to bad ergonomics. It can affect muscles, tendons and ligaments along with blood vessels and nerves. Continuous exposure to any of the following elements may put you at risk of suffering a musculoskeletal disorder:
- Repetitive motions — You may be surprised how damaging it can be to work on a computer all day. Tasks like data capturing that require the repetition of the same motions with little or no variation put stress on specific joints and the tissues surrounding them.
- Static loading and sustained exertions — Safety authorities say static loading is prevalent in computerized offices. If your job requires you to hold your body in one position for extended periods, you could experience muscle tension and circulation problems. Sustained exertion occurs when you have to exert yourself in any way while in a static position. It may seem insignificant to hold down the shift key on the computer keyboard, but doing that for hours on end with your body in a static position can be damaging.
- Awkward posture — If the motions required to carry out your tasks require you to bend or stretch your body in an unnatural position, it is termed as awkward — and if these motions are repetitive, it can be hazardous. This could include the slouching in a chair or leaning forward to reach the keyboard. Proper ergonomics include the matching of the right chair to the task and the employee.
- Mechanical contact stress — Any continuous pressure of a hard object in the soft tissue of any part of your body can cause damage over time. This includes the pressure of your wrist against the desk’s edge or your elbow resting on the hard armrest of your chair. Even the continuous pressure of the chair on the back of your thighs can damage tendons, blood vessels and nerves.
- Force — Muscles and ligaments can become fatigued and swollen if your job requires moderate force on small muscles. If you have to repeatedly reach to grab hold of bulky, heavy folders you could cause muscular damage. If your grip on the mouse is too tight or if you tend to pound on the keyboard when you type you could cause similar damage.
Although more and more business owners in Massachusetts recognize the importance of ergonomic assessments and modifications to prevent musculoskeletal injuries to administrative workers, in many cases the damage had already been done. If you are suffering the consequences of years of exposure to repetitive motion stress, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits to cover your medical expenses. However, proving such an injury to be work-related may be challenging, and you may need legal assistance to guide you through the process.