Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) affect the hands,
wrists, elbows, neck, shoulders, legs, hips, ankles and upper and lower back.
Most MSDs are work-related and result from repetitive stress injuries (RSIs).
The work patterns that result in MSDs include:
- Fixed body positions (sitting hunched
in front of the computer)
Repeated movements (using the computer
Long hours in fixed positions like
standing or sitting for too long
Workplace and MSDs
So far there has
been little debate on the best methodology to prevent MSDs at work. Workstation
adjustments alone have limited role in reducing MSD-related pain
and injuries. However, certain prevention strategies can work in groups which are at risk and
groups where members already exhibit symptoms of MSDs.
‘Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are the primary cause of painful, disabling musculoskeletal pain and injuries. Most MSDs are work-related occurring in the workplace.’
Eerd, Munhall, Irvin, Rempel, Brewer et al. from the Institute of Work and
Health conducted a systematic review of workplace interventions for preventing
and managing upper extremity MSD (UEMSD). They searched 6 electronic databases
from January 2008 to April 2013 and found that evidence on 30 intervention categories which
included resistance training and exercise programs to manage and alleviate
symptoms. The peer-reviewed literature describes some interventions and
adjustments. However, there is little evidence on positive outcomes related to
symptoms and disabling results. What was surprising was the weak evidence of
electromyographic (EMG) biofeedback and office workstation adjustments. In conclusion, the study and evidence point
out that resistance training and exercise work best in handling UEMSD and
preventing painful injuries and disability.
Types of MSDs
contractions use chemical energy from sugars and produce by-products like
lactic acid which is removed by the blood. Muscle contractions which last a
long time reduce the blood flow. The substances produced by the muscle are not
removed on time and accumulate in the muscles causing irritation and pain which
can be quite severe.
bundles of fibers which attach muscles to bones. Tendon injuries
occur due to repetitive activities and strain.
signals from the brain and control all muscle activities. Nerves are surrounded
by muscles, tendons and ligaments. Repetitive strain causes the tissues around
the nerves to swell and this compresses the nerves leading to pain.
UEMSDs and lower back injuries are important in preventing disabilities. UEMSDs
and lower back pain
if ignored can result in permanent disabilities and debilitation. Since workplace interventions have little value in effecting positive outcomes, it is important to look at other preventive
options. So far, evidence-based research has indicated workplace interventions
seating, adjustments in armrests, alternative keyboards or pointing devices have had little effect on preventing MSDs. However, as pointed out by researchers Eerd, Munhall, Irvin, Rempel, Brewer et al. it is important to include a regimen of exercise and resistance
training if one is engaged in sedentary workplace habits.
People who are constantly using the computer are at a risk of repetitive strain injuries
which can result in muscle, tendon and nerve issues. Common disorders include spondylitis
, chronic upper and lower back pain, lumbar disorders, hip and spinal issues
, knee cap injuries, carpal tunnel
and other wrist injuries
and shoulder injuries. Some of these can be chronic and permanent. Total avoidance of such injuries may not be totally
possible due to shifting workplace environments. Computer usage is ubiquitous
and cannot be avoided completely. However, it is possible to minimize damage by
following a regimen of resistance training, weight-bearing exercises and whole
body exercises which keep the muscles and tendons supple