Ergonomic Injury of the elbow

I was guilty of ignoring the potential of injuries from basic everyday things. Then in quick succession, I got a stiff neck and radial tunnel syndrome. I first hoped they would just go away, but they got worse. This lead me to find out what is an ergonomic injury and how I could prevent it in the future.

In this article we look at what ergonomic injures are, what causes them and how to prevent them. It’s not just workplace injuries we have to worry about, there are potential ergonomic hazards in everyday life as well.

What is an Ergonomic Injury?

Ergonomic injuries are injuries that occur because of poor body mechanics, posture and repetitive movements in relation to use of equipment.

It often refers to the work environment, like a factory or an office. However it also applies to using gadgets, repeating tasks you do at home and the seats you sit on most often. It also includes injures from bad sleep ergonomics.

The associated costs of ergonomic risks not only effect employers but also people in their personal life.

When you put an unbalanced strain on the body it can can cause acute or chronic posture and alignment issues

The injuries are wide ranging and if we do not do anything about them, they get worse. It’s not just shoulder injuries or a neck injury, but your back, hands and harms as well.

How Ergonomic Injuries Occur

An specially designed mouse to avoid an ergonomic injury

The best way to understand what is an ergonomic injury is to look at it’s  common causes….

Repetitive Motion

Performing the same movements repeatedly can strain muscles and tendons, leading to conditions like tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome.

Poor Posture

Working in an awkward or unnatural position for extended periods can put excessive pressure on certain parts of the body, causing pain and injury over time.

Excessive Force

Applying too much force, such as lifting heavy objects or using excessive pressure to operate machinery, can lead to strains and sprains.

Prolonged Sitting or Standing

Remaining in one position for too long can contribute to back pain and other musculoskeletal issues.

Inadequate Breaks

Insufficient rest breaks during work can exacerbate the risk of ergonomic injuries, as continuous work without rest can increase muscle fatigue and strain.

Improper Equipment or Tool Use

Using equipment or tools that are not designed ergonomically can force the body into uncomfortable positions.

Vibration

Regular exposure to vibration, such as from power tools or machinery, can lead to conditions affecting the blood vessels, nerves, and joints.

Poor Workspace Design

Workspaces that do not accommodate the worker’s physical dimensions or job requirements can lead to awkward postures and increased strain.

The Many Types of Ergonomic Injury

Most people have experienced at least one of these. I recently had tennis elbow from lifting weights that were to heavy for that movement.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

This comes from pressure on the nerve in your writs. It leads to numbness, tingling and weakness in the hand and fingers, caused by pressure on the median nerve.

Tendonitis

This is the result of Inflammation or irritation of a tendon. It often comes from repetitive motion or overuse. It causes pain and tenderness outside a joint.

Tennis Elbow (lateral epicondylitis)

A condition caused by overuse of the forearm, muscles, leading to elbow pain.

Golfer’s Elbow (Medial Epicondylitis)

Similar to tennis elbow but affects the inside of the forearm.

De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis

Affects the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist, causing pain when turning the wrist, grasping anything, or making a fist.

Trigger Finger

A condition in which a finger gets stuck in a bent position and then straightens with a snap. It is caused by inflammation and narrowing of the sheath that surrounds the tendon of the affected finger.

Rotator Cuff Tendinitis

Inflammation of the tendons in the shoulder’s rotator cuff, leading to pain and difficulty moving the shoulder.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

When the nerves or blood vessels between the collarbone and first rib get compressed it causes this ergonomic injury. This, leads to pain in the shoulders and neck and numbness in the fingers.

Back Injuries

Including lower back pain and injuries due to lifting, bending, or sitting in poor postures for prolonged periods. Very common.

Bursitis

This is caused by Inflammation of the bursae, small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the bones, tendons, and muscles near the joints. If you have this condition you will experience joint pain and stiffness.

Who is More Likely Suffer an Ergonomic Injury?

As we have a seen an ergonomic injury comes from bad alignment and posture, as well as repetitive actions. So anyone who does these is open to have such an injury.

Office Workers

People who work in office environments, especially those who spend long hours at a computer, are at risk for injuries related to poor posture, repetitive strain injuries (RSIs). These include carpal tunnel syndrome, and back pain from prolonged sitting.

Healthcare Professionals

Nurses, doctors, and other healthcare workers often engage in lifting and moving patients, which can lead to back injuries. They also perform repetitive tasks that can cause RSIs.

Manual Laborers and Construction Workers

Lifting awkward heavy objects over and over again will lead to postural alignment issues.,

Manufacturing and Assembly Line Workers

The repetitive nature of work in manufacturing and assembly lines can lead to a variety of ergonomic injuries, including tendinitis and bursitis.

Retail Workers

Employees in retail often stand for extended periods, which can lead to lower back pain and leg issues. They also perform tasks that involve lifting, reaching, or repetitive motions.

Warehouse Workers

Similar to manual laborers, warehouse workers are involved in lifting, carrying, and moving heavy items, which can lead to back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders.

Technology and Data Entry Professionals

Individuals in tech roles or those who perform significant amounts of data entry are at risk for RSIs due to the repetitive nature of typing and mouse use. They also risk eye strain from prolonged screen time.

Transportation Workers

Truck drivers and others who spend long hours driving are at risk for back pain and other injuries related to sitting for extended periods and the vibration of vehicles.

How to Prevent an Ergonomic Injury

Regular breaks and stretches avoid chronic issues

Understanding what is an ergonomic injury is the first step to prevent and recover from it.

Since ergonomic injuries are caused by poor posture, body alignment and repeating tasks. To prevent these injuries we want to make sure have our body is aligned correctly and the equipment is friendly to our bodies natural structure.

Here are the way we can do this….

1. Ergonomic Workplace Design

Use ergonomic furniture that can be adjusted to fit the user’s body, such as chairs with lumbar support and adjustable desks.

Position monitors, keyboards, and other tools to encourage a natural, comfortable posture.

Arrange you environment to minimize the need for excessive reaching, bending or twisting.

2. Use of Ergonomic Tools and Equipment

Use Ergonomic Keyboards and Mice. These are designed to minimize strain on the hands and wrists.

Also use tools like hand trucks, adjustable lift tables, and hoists to handle heavy materials.

Use anti-Fatigue matting for jobs that require standing, these mats can help reduce leg and back strain.

3. Proper Body Mechanics and Posture

Learn about the importance of maintaining proper posture and using correct body mechanics, especially when lifting or moving objects.

Make sure you change positions often and take short breaks to stretch and move around.

4. Work Process Improvements

Rotate tasks among workers to reduce the risk of overuse injuries from repetitive motions.

Also ensure that work paces are reasonable and allow for rest breaks to prevent excessive fatigue.

If you can, alternate between tasks that use different muscle groups to avoid overuse.

5. Training and Education

Learn about ergonomic principles and risk factors, the use of ergonomic equipment, and the importance of breaks and stretching.

For employers, teaching employees what is an ergonomic injury will go along way to making sure they occur less often. It will also avoid workers compensation claims.

6. Regular Breaks and Exercise

Make sure you implement regular breaks to reduce muscle fatigue and strain.

Learn some simple stretches you can do at regular intervals through the day. These do not have to strenuous. They just need re align and move your tendons, muscles and joints to counteract bad ergonomics.

By adopting these strategies you can significantly reduce the risk of ergonomic injuries among for yourself, and if you are an employer, your workforce. You will have healthier employees and more productive work environments.

Conclusion

Ergonomic injuries occur from repetitive tasks and improper alignment when using equipment. Not just in the work place but also in your everyday home life.

We are more sedentary than ever, and are moving further away from our natural life styles so ergonomic injuries are becoming more common.

However, we are also more educated and aware of how they happen. This means that with proper care and awareness we can prevent them from happening.

Also, it has become common for workplaces to provide ergonomic equipment and training to avoid work related musculoskeletal disorders.

You can use the same principles in your home and reduce or avoid ergonomic hazards that interfere in the quality of your life.