October is ergonomics month! What is ergonomics you ask? It is the study of people and work to put it simply – with the goal of creating and ensuring a safe environment and reducing injuries. There is so much information about this topic because we all work for the most part in some way or another and of course we can injure so many parts of our bodies that make it difficult to work. But today, I am going to focus on prevention of injuries to the arm and hand at work (I can’t help myself as the hand therapist…).
The arm – shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand is one of the most common areas of injury next to the neck and back. Think about everything that you do from the time you wake up, go to work, and go to sleep. You need your arms for everything that you do. Your shoulders need to reach in space so that your hands can grab and manipulate objects. Your elbows have to bend and straighten to connect what your shoulder and hand are trying to do. For all that your arm does for you to function without pain, you need to make sure that you take care of your arm as well! This is the human factor of ergonomics.
Some of the most common injuries to the arm are carpal tunnel, tendinitis of the shoulder and elbow, trigger fingers, and the general sprains and strains. How can we prevent some of these injuries? It all depends on what you do for a living. There are so many different types of work and positions. If you are in a type of work that requires you to be in one position like an office position or even in stationary position, one of the most important things that you need to do is STRETCH! Stop working for just 5 minutes and stretch your arms! No one at work is going to tell you to stop working and stretch, just like no one is going to tell you that you can’t stretch! It’s one of the most important things that you can do to prevent injury. It allows you to relax your muscles and move your joints.
Another tip to keep in mind is make sure your arms are in a relaxed position and not tense or feeling fatigued. If you are feeling like your arms are overly tired for what you are doing, then the work station may not be in the best position to fit your body and the work that you need to do. Keeping your arms tense can cause sore muscles which over time can increase into pain and tendinitis type issues. If you think that your work station is not right for you, discuss with your superior and see how they can help you connect with the right person to help you make modifications. Take care before injuries occur. The pictures are just a visual on one of the most simple ways to make an adjustment to your work station.
Other injuries such as lacerations, amputations, and tears of ligaments or tendons occur in positions that require much heavier types of work, like construction, assembly work, and health care jobs. In my 15 years of experience one of the most common reasons that people tell me after injury is that they were just trying to do something that was just too heavy for them but they thought they could do it. Another huge reason is that they were rushing. The both combined reasons are the perfect storm for injury. Please remember that when lifting apply good body mechanics such as using the larger muscles of your legs instead of your arms, keeping the heavy load closer to your body so that it does not strain your shoulders, and pushing is easier then pulling on your arms. But the most important thing to remember is that you can ask for help if something is too heavy for you to do. Don’t rush through your work, it will still be there but if you are rushing then that means you are not careful and can get seriously hurt. Ergonomics is about us, humans at work. We need to take care of ourselves so we can continue to be productive without pain.
Have any questions about ergonomics? Injury? Let us know. We can help! Call us at 786-615-9879
Hands on Therapy Services is a leading Miami certified hand therapist, specializing in rehabilitation of shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand injuries resulting from injuries, surgery, or naturally occurring conditions. Our Miami hand therapy services are provided by our certified hand therapist in Miami. We also offer occupational therapy in Miami with our on site occupational therapist. Plus – coming soon – we will be offering physical therapy in Miami.
Disclaimer: As with all our pages, this is NOT a substitute for formal medical treatment or occupational therapy. It is intended to inform only. Hands on Therapy Services disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.