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Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders and Workplace Design

16 June 2021

Today digital technology or the use of computers are inevitable at work or even at home as it has become necessary to have them to be able to work and gather information. As digital technology and computerization become dynamic and necessary, we are forced to rely on them every day.  

We sit in front of the computer for long hours in order to get our work done or to just browse on the Internet for information and personal purposes. We really cannot avoid using the computer as it is the fastest way to look for information.

However, the repetitive use of our hands and the long hours that we use them have adverse effects for us and for other employees working at home and in the office. Excessive use of the hands in repetitive motion such as typing on the keyboard could produce what we call musculoskeletal disorders such as pains or injury in the different parts of our hands such as the wrist, tendons ligaments, and even the muscles in our shoulders.

As we work more and use our hands more to finish our tasks, we develop different injuries and pains, especially on our hands.

This usually happens in the workplace so that the adverse effects of repetitive use of our and other parts of the body have been termed as a work-related musculoskeletal disorder.  

It is reported that work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) are the most common occupational health hazard that workers are facing these days.

Approximately two million workers go through work-related musculoskeletal disorders yearly and about 600,000 lose times from work as a result of these.

Those with musculoskeletal pain are complaining that they feel body ache and their body muscles are overused and fatigued. There are times too, that they feel their muscles even in their shoulders are jerking and there is a burning sensation. 

The term musculoskeletal disorders are simply termed with different names such as:

  • Constant motion and strain injuries
  • Overuse malady
  • Soft tissue disarrangement
  • Sectional musculoskeletal disorders

The risk related to work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) emerges during hand movements of the arms and hands.

Examples of these movements are holding, twisting, clenching, straightening, and gripping. In the workplace, these movements pose risks with endless repetitive motion with force especially with speedy movements, and less time to recover in between these repetitive movements.

In other words, when we do these movements normally and regularly in our everyday life, they are not really hazardous for us compared to the workplace where we do these movements repetitively and with force. There are different work patterns that are related to WMSDs namely:

  1. Recurring body movements 
  2. A force that is focused on small parts of the body such as the hand or wrist
  3. work speed that does not enough recovery between movements
  4. Heat and cold 

It is reported in an online article that these work patterns done together contribute to WMSD and not only with one specific movement. People who work with these patterns who show some symptoms of WMSD when they feel the following:

  • Pain - most common
  • Weakness of the muscles
  • Stiffness of the joints
  • Swelling and redness of the affected area
  • Numbness
  • Diminished hand sweating
  • Changes in skin color

When I stopped working due to retirement, I felt these symptoms but I was not sure that these were the products of my years of working with my company. Repetitive movements of my hands and risks due to working on the computer every day made my hands weaker and sometimes I felt some numbness and tightness of my muscles on my shoulder. 

Although it was already late to feel these symptoms, I still acquired these symptoms due to more than 20 years of doing routine and repetitive kinds of work in a sedentary situation for eight hours or so. My hands were mostly affected due to computer-related work that I used to do. When I was in pain, I did not take any medicine because I thought that might be habitual in the long run. So what I usually did was to just apply a certain kind of herbal oil to ease the pain and to stop it.

The good news is that WMSDs can be treated with some changes in the workplace and also other kinds of treatments if severe with clinical help as necessary.

Other solutions to prevent these disorders are mainly avoiding repetitive patterns of work and giving the employees enough movements within the work area and other job designs and layout that would prevent the hazard resulting from WMSD.

One of the possible solutions to this type of workplace disorder is to exercise as suggested in the article (retrieved from https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/diseases/rmirsi.html) and workplace design wherein the employees can change postures from sitting to standing during work. In this way, there are different movements that an employee could do to avoid repetitive movements and being in the same position such as sitting for excessive hours.

So, if companies whose workers do constant work activities, they may help the workers prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders by changing the workplace layout where employees could work in different postures. 

A highly recommended company such as FlexiSpot could offer ergonomic desks that are height adjustable so that the employees could sit or stand during work to prevent work-related disorders especially the musculoskeletal system of the body.

One of the products from this company that is worth checking on is the Adjustable Standing Desk Pro Series EC5 with a stunning feature of advanced control panel and LED display and has memory heigh presets wherein you can program the sit/stand reminder system. As such, you will be reminded when to sit or stand in the middle of work preventing disorders in your workplace.

The desktop surface is also available in different colors and the desk itself has 220 lbs. weight capacity ideal to place your computer and other office supplies. It is also scratch and stain-resistant.

I think this is the perfect desk to complement the office design preventing possible work-related WMSD among employees.