Ergonomic disorders affect the connective tissues and the musculoskeletal system of the body. Such disorders are caused by repetitive physiological movements like twisting, bending, reaching, crawling, climbing, or overextending. The most common ergonomic disorders include musculoskeletal disorders: carpal tunnel syndrome, lower back pain, arthritis, and tendinitis.
Ergonomic injuries can impact individuals belonging to any industry, irrespective of the working conditions. Workplace injuries, which account for 33% of all workplace-related disorders, also lead to permanent body deformations. In addition, workplace injuries cost organizations a whopping $15-20 billion annually.
Injuries and disorders affecting employees result in productivity and financial losses for organizations due to absenteeism, disability, health care costs, and workers’ compensations.
Most Common Ergonomic Disorders at the Workplace:
The musculoskeletal disorder affects the joints, muscles, bones, tendons, or ligaments. It could be chronic, sudden, acute, or severe depending on the workplace conditions. It may affect the entire body or the pain could be restricted to a single body part. Employees who spend extensive time sitting at their desks, for example, may develop musculoskeletal disorders.
The people working in factories, especially, may suffer from muscular, joint, and lower back pain. Musculoskeletal disorders occur due to muscle spasms, inflammation, cramps, and stiffness, which can get better with rest but worst with more of the same repetitive activity.
The sprains and strains caused by overuse of the same muscles and joints can induce ligament and tendon pain, which might require an acute treatment if the disorder has progressed. However, some of the non-acute treatment options include therapeutic massages, acupuncture, occupational therapy, chiropractic adjustments, pain killers, splints, and steroid injections.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)
CTS is a condition that affects the peripheral nervous system, which consists of nerves and ganglia that are located outside the influence of the spinal cord and brain. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve in the wrist is compressed, causing tingling, discomfort, weakness, numbness, and muscular atrophy in the fingers, wrists, and hands. CTS can have a significant influence on the lives of those who are affected by it.
As per a study conducted by the University of Maryland Medical Center, around 3% of females and 2% of males are diagnosed with CTS at some point in their lives. Nearly half of all the workers with CTS changed employment within 30 months of being diagnosed, and the average time away from work after treatment for CTS is 27 days. Depending upon the severity of the disease, the treatment options include surgery, medication, hand therapy, yoga, and ultrasound therapy.
Lower Back Pain
Over 80% of Americans experience low-back pain at some point in their lives, as per research by the University of North Carolina. The Canadian Chiropractic Association has estimated that up to 85% of working people can encounter lower-back pain at least once in their lifetimes.
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Low-back pain is usually caused by sitting for extended periods of time without lumbar support. Apart from the most common treatment options like physiotherapy, ice and heat compression, surgery, and pain killers, other options include engineering controls (ergonomic workplace redesign) and administrative controls (adjusting workload and schedule).
Arthritis is a painful joint disorder that causes inflammation and degenerative wear and tears in the joints. Symptoms of arthritis may vary depending on the type, pattern, severity, and joint it affects. In the United States, 46-million people suffer from some sort of disability, which will most likely be caused by arthritis.
Nearly 19 million are limited in their activities due to arthritis worldwide. And, nearly two-thirds of arthritis sufferers are under the age of 65. Treatment involves medications, physical therapy, therapeutic injections, and joint replacement in serious instances.
Tendinitis is caused by inflammation or irritation in the tendons—the thick cords connecting the muscles and bones. Tendinitis can be mild or severe, and recovery times can vary from weeks to even months.
Adults aged 40 and over are more susceptible to tendinitis because the tendons in that age become less elastic, causing them to rupture and crack easily. A study by OMICS International found that over 28-million people in the USA suffer from torn tendons every year, costing the healthcare system an estimated $30 billion money per year.
The treatment options include therapy, medication, and surgery. The RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) treatment at home is also effective for most cases of tendinitis.
Ergonomics is the science of balancing workplace requirements with human psychological and physiological factors by applying principles from engineering and product design. The aim is to reduce incidents of disorders induced by overuse or misuse of muscles and joints in modern workplace settings. The above-mentioned disorders are the most common workplace deformations and illnesses caused by bad ergonomics.