Workplace injury. Work injuries as sporting injuries.
We consider the Worker as an Athlete.
There are many benefits of early treatment:
Workplace overuse injuries can be considered very similar to overload injuries in athletes and the principles of injury avoidance are also very similar. Overload injuries arise when a structure within the body is exposed to a force that on its own wouldn’t cause injury but when applied repetitively exceeds the ability of that structure to withstand the load. This repetitive loading in runners can lead to achilles tendinopathy for example and similarly there are many examples in workers; Dentists grip positions can lead to wrist injury, Carpenters hammering can lead to Tennis elbow, Desk workers can get LBP from sitting or neck or wrist injuries from typing, Electricians can get headaches from having their heads tilted back, Hairdressers can get shoulder pain from their positioning etc
There are multiple factors that can contribute to a structure being overstressed in the workplace. Equipment faults, movement faults and biomechanical faults can all play a part. Sometimes it’s a case of needing to examine the way you move and make simple changes.
If the equipment you are using is poorly designed or poorly positioned then it can contribute to excess stresses. For example if your chair limits your ability to attain a suitable lumbar position then you are at risk of back pain and problems.
Excessive shoulder and scapular elevation when lifting your arm in Dentists & Hairdressers is an example of poor movement technique and can cause overactivity and pain in the Upper Trapezius and Levator Scapulae muscles. Specific retraining exercises that focus on control of your scapular position would be important in the correction of this incorrect movement pattern.
Biomechanical faults can be structural or functional in nature. Structural faults include those anatomical anomalies that we are born with like leg length differences. These faults, if correctable, may be corrected with appropriate equipment. Functional faults, such as muscle imbalance, develop due to poor movement patterns or after an injury. Correction of functional faults requires function analyses and retraining of the movement technique, manual therapy and a specific therapeutic exercise program.
Injury avoidance in the workplace may be achieved by following some of the same advice given to athletes:
- Warm up before you start your workday with some general exercises and specific stretches.
- Adequate relative rest is achieved by varying your routine of tasks. Avoid doing the same task for extended periods without rest breaks. Simply standing and stretching may be sufficient to provide the rest that your body needs from a repetitive or constant activity.
- Use the correct equipment for the job and ensure that it is set up appropriately. Place equipment wisely so that it is within easy reach and don’t persist using equipment that forces you to adopt poor postures.
- Seek advice on suitable equipment to correct for structural biomechanical faults. A physiotherapist and/or podiatrist can be of assistance in highlighting structural and functional biomechanical faults and can then provide equipment, treat joint and muscle problems, retrain movement patterns and design therapeutic exercise programs as necessary.
Early treatment of sporting and workplace injuries is essential to minimise time lost on the field and in the practice. Early assessment and treatment can prevent a simple and easily managed problem from progressing into a time consuming and expensive long-term problem.