Repetitive stress injuries, also known as musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), cause more than 40,000 workplace injuries in Ontario each year.
The Industrial Accident Prevention Association has compiled five common myths that need dispelling in order to start eliminating pains and strains in the workplace:
MSDs only develop in workers involved in manual labour. It can’t happen to me.
Regardless of industry or profession, MSDs target all individuals in the workplace. MSDs affect the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves in the human body, and develop as a result of repetitive, forceful, and/or awkward movements.
MSDs occur most frequently in the arms and hands, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, rotator cuff syndrome, tennis elbow (epicondylitis), and shoulder pain (shoulder myalgia).
A MSD can occur in almost any part of the body. In fact, the body part most often affected by a MSD is the back. The latest research suggests that most spinal discs are injured by cumulative weight being applied – essentially, it’s like “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
People need to be reminded to bend their knees when they lift in order to prevent an MSD.
Yes, it’s true that we have greater strength and mechanical advantage by bending the knees. However, it’s just as important to maintain your back’s natural curves, especially the arch in your lower back, when lifting an item. Also, take a close look at the job you’re doing and see if you can reduce the amount of lifting, carrying, and climbing.
MSDs are just a natural part of getting old.
A surprising number of young people are reporting MSDs at work and at home. “Blackberry thumb” is the newest MSD of the computer age. While it’s true that certain disorders, such as degenerative disc disease, are part of the aging process, it’s possible to still have a healthy body as you get older. It’s not age that dictates the onset of a MSD, it’s the risk-factors that you’re exposed to and your work practices.
Ergonomics is just the latest buzzword in how to prevent MSDs – prevention is really just basic common sense.
MSDs were first documented by Bernardino Ramazzini, the father of occupational medicine, in 1713. The term “ergonomics” was first used by a Polish educator and scientist, Wojciech Jastrzebowski (1799-1882). For centuries, people have been trying to “work smarter, not harder”. Those who have been successful have realized that it is more than just common sense and it often is not common practice. The main goal of ergonomics is to reduce the risk of MSDs by matching the demands of the job to the abilities of the worker through the proper design of workstations, tools, environment, work schedules, policies, and procedures.
Find out more about reducing the risk of MSDs at work at