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3 Ways to Prevent Arm Overuse Injuries at Workplaces

07 July 2023

Overuse injuries were once common among athletes. However, over the years, the problem has become increasingly common among workplaces regardless of the industries. Overuse injuries of fingers, arms, wrists, and hands are one of the leading causes of workplace injuries and result in lost productivity and company time. Moreover, it costs a lot of money to the organization in terms of medical costs.

According to statistics, an average worker takes around 13 off days due to overuse injuries every year. Now imagine its impact on an organizational level where hundreds of employees are prone to arm overuse injuries due to the workplace dynamics.

Since arm overuse injuries are a major occupational concern, it's critical to learn about the causes and symptoms of these injuries so they can be treated well in time. Moreover, it's also essential to know about ways to prevent arm overuse injuries that can have a debilitating impact on an employee's quality of life.

Arm Overuse Injuries – Overview

Arm overuse injuries refer to a musculoskeletal condition where the muscles, tendons, or ligaments are damaged due to extensive repetitive use. Activities that require extensive pushing, pulling, or lifting often result in arm overuse injuries.

A particularly interesting aspect of arm overuse injuries is that the condition doesn't always have to involve dealing with heavy weights. While pushing, pulling, or lifting heavy weights can increase the risk of repetitive overuse injuries, the constantly repetitive action results in the overuse of arm muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It is due to this reason that even some of the activities associated with a desk job, such as typing and clicking, can lead to arm overuse injuries. Although these activities do not involve dealing with heavy weight, the constant repetition of these activities turns out to be a cause of arm overuse injuries.

Let's learn more about the causes and symptoms of arm overuse injuries so you can figure out ways to prevent and manage the condition.

Arm Overuse Injuries - Causes

In an industrial setting, arm overuse injuries are often a result of constantly bending or lifting. Moreover, workers working on an assembly line who are also involved in the same repetitive motion like bending and other repetitive motion are also prone to developing this condition. After all, the constantly repetitive motions can weaken soft tissues like tendons and ligaments. Over time the weakening of muscles, tendons, and ligaments results in aches and pains. Moreover, it also contributes to decreased strength and flexibility, which affects the worker's speed and skill.

Some of the most common workplace-related arm overuse injuries include tennis elbow, tendinitis, and carpal tunnel syndrome.



What are the Symptoms of Arm Overuse Injuries?

At the start of the condition, the person dealing with an arm overuse injury may not experience any debilitating symptoms. However, there are a few symptoms that you need to watch out for.

Initially, most individuals dealing with arm overuse injuries will complain of fatigue and tiredness, which is often mistaken as a normal part of working life. However, once the condition worsens, it leads to musculoskeletal pain, which means that an individual with an arm overuse injury will experience pain in muscles, bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and even nerves.

As the condition gets worse, many individuals experience microtrauma, which is when the small parts of your soft tissues begin to wear out, increasing the risk of trauma for your muscles and tissues. The risk of trauma contributes significantly to aches and pains, which, over time, lead to loss of use of the specific muscle group.

Some of the symptoms of arm overuse injuries include

Swelling,

Pain that worsens with movement,

Numbness or tingling sensation,

Reduced flexibility of the joint and

Limited joint mobility.

If left untreated, these symptoms continue to get worse over time, resulting in increased pain that often leads to loss of functionality.



How is Arm Overuse Injury Diagnosed?

For most employees who are prone to arm overuse injuries due to their work setting, it is common to experience the above-mentioned symptoms.

Once the doctor analyses the symptoms by taking a personal history and by physically evaluating your affected muscle group, they may recommend a series of tests to assess your arm's strength. These tests will help determine whether there's any damage to or irritation of the nerve.

Some of the most common tests or scans used to diagnose arm overuse injuries include

X-Rays – The imaging test helps rule out damage to the bone that may be causing pain and discomfort,

MRI – The imaging scan helps assess your tendon and ligament health,

Electrical Neurophysiological Assessment – The diagnostic test that is used to determine the nerve that has been affected by the condition.

3 Ways to Prevent Arm Overuse Injuries at Workplace

Experiencing arm overuse injuries can be quite a frustrating experience. It results in discomfort and pain in the early stages, which worsens and leads to limited mobility and decreases productivity. Moreover, untreated arm overuse injuries can result in more painful conditions, including muscle tears and nerve damage.

The following tips can help employees across different industries avoid developing painful arm overuse injuries while at work.



#1. Start Your Day with Some Warm-up Movements

It's common for workers in different industries to get started with work as soon as they reach their workplace. While it's an efficient way to start your workday, an even better approach is to warm up yourself before you start your day at work.

By warming up your muscles, you are preparing them for the busy day ahead, so they are more prepared for the activities that lie ahead and have a reduced risk of injury.

A great way to warm up your muscles before you start your workday is to add some stretching to your routine. Adding arm stretching exercises improve blood circulation, relaxes and lengthens muscles, and improves flexibility. Moreover, it makes it easier for the ligaments to support muscles and joint movement, which aids in reducing the risk of arm overuse injuries.

For workers who do not add warm-up stretching to their routine before getting started with physically demanding work, their muscles are less prepared for the activity and hence more prone to injury.

Some of the arm stretches you can try out as warm-up activity include the following.

Finger up and down the stretch,

Reverse prayer,

Assisted side bend, and

Eagle arms.



#2. Incorporate Short Breaks Throughout Your Workday

The other preventive measure you should try to reduce the risk of arm overuse injuries at the workplace is to incorporate short breaks throughout your workday.

Over time, with constant usage, arm muscles, and tissues may get worn out, which increases the risk of muscle injuries.

A solution to this problem lies in incorporating short breaks that can interrupt the repetitive motions and provide arms with adequate rest that they need to recharge in between working sessions.

A microbreak ranging between a few seconds to five minutes can serve as an ideal duration to break the cycle of repetitive motion. It’s best to take short breaks after every 30-40 minutes.

While taking a break, it always helps to add a few stretches for your hands and arms as it prepares the muscles for the activity that lies ahead following the break.



#3. Take Care of Your Posture

Arm overuse injuries are closely related to misaligned posture. It happens when employees need to engage the correct muscle group during the task or heavily rely on a single muscle group during a specific task. As a result of incorrect posture, there is a significantly higher risk of overuse injuries.

Therefore, workers must take care of their posture while working regardless of their workplace setting. In an industrial setting, employees should follow good posture guidelines to reduce the risk of injuries. Moreover, in an office setting, it's best to invest in ergonomic accessories like Clamp-on Adjustable Keyboard Tray that allow computer users to maintain a good hand posture while typing or clicking. Hence, such accessories help reduce the risk of arm overuse injuries.

Prevent Arm Overuse Injuries with FlexiSpot

Employees in various industries need to know how to prevent arm overuse injuries and other injuries throughout their bodies while at work. By taking care of their posture, warming up their muscles, and taking short breaks throughout the work day, employees can significantly reduce their risk of overuse injuries and enhance their quality of life at work and beyond.

At FlexiSpot, we offer ergonomic office furniture and workplace accessories to help prevent your employees from experiencing debilitating musculoskeletal conditions like overuse injuries.

Get in touch with us today to learn more about how our equipment can add value to your employee's health and well-being.