Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) are a group of painful disorders of muscles, tendons, and nerves. Carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, thoracic outlet syndrome, and tension neck syndrome are examples.
WMSDs arise from arm and hand movements such as bending, straightening, gripping, holding, twisting, clenching and reaching. These common movements are not particularly harmful in the ordinary activities of daily life. What makes them hazardous in work situations is the continual repetition, often in a forceful manner, and most of all, the speed of the movements and the lack of time for recovery between them. WMSDs are associated with work patterns that include:
Fixed or constrained body positions.
Continual repetition of movements.
Force concentrated on small parts of the body, such as the hand or wrist.
A pace of work that does not allow sufficient recovery between movements.
Generally, none of these factors acts separately to cause WMSD. WMSDs commonly occur as a result of a combination and interaction among them. Heat, cold and vibration also contribute to the development of WMSD.
WMSDs include three types of injuries:
How are WMSDs treated?
The treatment of WMSDs involves several approaches including the following:
Restriction of movement.
Application of heat or cold.
Medication and surgery.
How can we prevent WMSDs?
Hazards are best eliminated at the source; this is a fundamental principle of occupational health and safety. In the case of WMSDs, the prime source of hazard is the repetitiveness of work. Other components of work such as the applied force, fixed body positions, and the pace of work are also contributing factors.