7 ways to avoid ergonomic injuries

Your joints connect your bones and support your weight while coordinating movement. Joints endure lots of stress, especially from workplace tasks.

However, they can sometimes suffer wear and tear, resulting in joint pain. Irregular movements, carrying heavy weights, bad posture and repetitive movements all lead to join pain.

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Moreover, diseases like bursitis, osteoporosis and arthritis all cause joint pain. In fact, arthritis alone is the leading work disability.

However, in the case of joint pain caused by ergonomics, there are ways to take precautions. Here are some tips to avoid work-related joint pains in 2019.

Increase Flexibility

Both dynamic and static stretching maintains a range of motion around joints. Static stretching means performing a comfortable position for up to 60 seconds. A dynamic stretch involves movement alongside the muscle exertion.

For example, a hamstring stretch is a static stretch, and a lunge with a twist is a dynamic stretch.

Both types of stretches relieve stiffness from long working hours. A stiff joint is more prone to pain, swelling and ergonomic injury.

A swollen joint implies the surrounding muscles are weakened and the joint is more susceptible to injuries and pains. Ensure that you warm up your muscles prior to work and stretch later after work to increase flexibility.

Wear the Right Footwear

As the old saying goes: “Invest in your shoes and your bed sheets, because if you’re not in one, you’re in the other.”

When you’re working all day on your feet, getting the right footwear is essential. Knee pain is the most common joint pain and can be exacerbated by poor footwear.

The right work apparel should provide cushioning, stability, flexibility and comfort. Use the arches and strike pattern of your feet when finding the right shoes to use at work.

If you're involved in activities such as running, a good shoe will factor in the compression ability. Replace your shoe soles regularly to avoid abnormal stresses on weight-bearing joints.

Advisably, consult a podiatrist to help you determine the right shoe according to your gait pattern and for the tasks you undertake.

Bear in mind that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – including footwear - is regarded as the “last line of defence” against injury, so other precautions should always be taken first.

Maintain Proper Posture

Whatever task you are undertaking, it’s important to practice good posture.

Sitting for long hours with poor posture leads to tightened, compromised muscles, and subsequently, back pain.

Good posture means the spine vertebrae is aligned correctly.

If you’re guilty of bad posture, or you suffer back pain, then try these tips to improve your posture.

  • Practice core and buttock stretches to build up muscle supporting good posture
  • Sit correctly at your desk
  • When standing, have your shoulders back and tummy tucked and straighten up

It’s important to set up your desk for lower back support. It's advisable to set up your work station close to you and maintain 90 degrees for your elbows, hips, and knees.

If you don’t have a chair with low back support, acquire one immediately to save your spinal cord, or hack it by rolling up a pillow and place it behind your low back on your high back seat.

During the working day, regularly getting up and moving around to stretch your muscles helps avoid spinal pains. Use every opportunity to get moving: walk over and speak to a colleague instead of emailing and take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Take Breaks

Do you believe in “no pain no gain”? Think again – this philosophy can cause workers injuries, especially when undertaking repetitive movements. These are called repetitive strain injuries (RSI).

RSIs are the result of muscle over-exertion, which can happen when staff conduct repetitive activity and high-intensity activity without taking a break. Repetitive strenuous activity subjects your joints to higher stress.

It’s important to know when to stop and take a rest. While an employer may be pleased with an performance improvement, it’s the worker who pays with joint pain.

So, workers must pay attention to their bodies. If they’re in the middle of any activity and feel any pain, they should stop and rest. In fact, as a precaution, workers should regularly take short breaks rather than one long lunch break.

However, if the pain persists, seek professional medical advice.

Reduce Stress

Believe it or not, mental unwellness can contribute to joint pain. Stress, depression, bullying, anxiety and general job unhappiness all play a part.

In particular, stress is caused by decreasing levels of cortisol, a stress hormone which can drive down the production of collagen – a necessity for healthy joints.

In this sense, stress reduction techniques may contribute to tackling joint pain. Introduce work-place stress busters: offer decaf tea and coffee, keep office spaces neat and organised, and allow staff time out for breathing exercises. Diaphragmatic breathing for five to ten minutes is another method of lowering stress hormone levels.

Reduce The Load

When lifting heavy objects at work, encourage workers to be cautious around load weight.

Subjecting joints to heavy loads automatically strains them and causes sharp intense pains. In the case of manual handling, lower back pain is the most frequent related injury.

However, staff can change how they lift objects, decreasing stress on the muscles and joints.

Advise staff to do the following during manual handling:

  • plan ahead
  • firmly grip the object
  • fully squat – don’t bend the back!
  • don’t twist during the lift
  • don’t make any sudden movements

Conclusion

Joint pain can be a terrible affliction, causing years of pain. But it doesn’t need to be this way. There are many ergonomic changes workers can undertake to take precautions.

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Cristi Waterson is an advocate on business advice and workplace rights. She has written for Strategics360, New York Jobs, and ZipJob among various other websites. She actively seeks to spread awareness for employee related issues through her articles throughout the internet.

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