February 29th doesn’t happen each year – this is why we celebrate Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) Awareness Day on the last day of February, a “non-repetitive” day. Repetitive Strain Injuries are also known as musculoskeletal disorders.
Why exactly do we celebrate this day? Repetitive strain injuries, also known as musculoskeletal injuries or disorders, impact people in a wide variety of industries. According to Statistics Canada, over 2-million Canadians experience a repetitive strain injury that limits their daily lives and activities – over 55% of these injuries occurr at work. If that’s not enough to make you want to prevent strain, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) says musculoskeletal disorders are one of the most common causes for time-loss injuries, and lost-time costs in Canada.
REPETITIVE STRAIN INJURY: WHAT ARE THEY?
Repetitive strain injuries happen from common motions you make often, on a daily-basis. These repetitive motions include turning, twisting, bending, gripping, clicking. reaching for nearby objects and even the way you sit at a desk. They can all cause permanent or temporary injury to muscles, nerves, ligaments, joints and tendons.
Yes, these motions are an everyday part of many job duties. However, when muscles, tendons and nerves are repeatedly exposed to trauma, this puts worker’s at risk to develop a RSI.
Obviously these actions be difficult to avoid, so what risk factors should workers aim to prevent?
Some of the risk factors that contribute to RSI’s include:
- Awkward postures, awkward fixed or constrained body position
- Excessive force concentrated on small parts of the body, like the hand or wrist
- Regular breaks: Fast-pace work with little-to-no break or recovery time
- Psychosocial: Risk factors like stress or emotional trauma
- Localized pressure: Leaning on elbows, arm rests, etc.
Common repetitive strain injuries include:
- Tension Neck Syndrome
- Carpal Tunnel
- Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
REPETITIVE STRAIN INJURY: PREVENT THE PAIN
There are quite a few steps you can take to prevent injuries. As we mentioned, a number of movements cause repetitive strain injuries and can contribute to musculoskeletal disorders, but there are simple steps you can take to prevent them from happening in the first place.
What role do employees play in preventing the pain? If possible at your job, here are a few steps to take to reduce repetitive strain injuries.
- If practical for the role, structure jobs so you can switch between different tasks, to move different muscle groups
- If repetitive work is necessary, have a workstation that can be adjusted – often, a desk that allows the you to sit, stand or both can be beneficial to reduce strain
- Provide employees with well-maintained tools to complete tasks, which can help exert less force, and experience fewer strain and awkward positions
- Take frequent breaks to stretch your neck, legs and arms to help prevent strain
- Mechanization: Automate employee tasks when and if possible
- Job Rotation: Rotate between different tasks
- Teamwork: Distribute work evenly among team members
- Job Enlargement: Increase the variety of tasks for workers
Not reasonable to just get rid of repetitive motions in your job? Here are some other workplace issues you can look at that may help prevent a repetitive strain injury:
- Workplace design: Fit the workstation to the worker
- Assistive devices: Use carts, hoists or other mechanical handling devices
- Work practices: Train workers properly and thoroughly, give rest periods and job control to workers
- Tool and equipment design: Provide workers with proper equipment and tools that lessen the body’s use of force and awkward positioning
Repetitive strain injuries don’t happen overnight, as we mentioned repeatedly (sorry) in this article, are caused by overexposure to trauma, and strain.
Look for these symptoms to identify on-coming musculoskeletal disorders:
- Joint stiffness
- Muscle tightness
- Swelling of affected area
- “Pins and needles” sensations
- Skin colour changes
Here are some things you can do to treat work-related musculoskeletal disorders and prevent, or reduce the pain:
- Restrict movement if possible
- Application of heat or cold
- Medication and surgery
Learn more about workplace safety – enroll in a first-aid course.
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Information via the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety: https://www.ccohs.ca/events/rsi/