Just as we generally assume that we are safe at home, those of us who stroll into an office each day don’t anticipate being wheeled out on a stretcher. But office hazards do exist, and with just a bit of attention to preventing them, you can avoid or minimize musculoskeletal problems.
According to Liberty Mutual, one of the largest workers’ compensation insurance providers in the United States, overexertion, lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying or throwing an object, costs employers $13.4 billion every year due to the onslaught of musculoskeletal disorders. “Individuals who work in office spaces could be at risk for office related musculoskeletal injuries since many stay in the same position all day and partake in repetitive motions. Similarly, people who work lifting heavy equipment or supplies are also at risk for orthopedic injuries”, said Katrina Pazienza Travieso, workers comp coordinator at OrthoNOW Doral.
The orthopedic experts at OrthoNOW narrowed down the top 5 workplace injuries and provided the following tips to prevent them:
- Lower Back Pain: the #1 cause of disability worldwide is lower back pain. Improper lifting, poor posture and/or sitting all day long are some of the things that may provoke the muscles in your back to tighten up and cause acute or even chronic back pain. Back pain can severely affect workplace productivity and spirit, therefore it’s imperative to treat it quickly and avoid complications. There are various places you can go if you are suffering from lower back pain, not just back pain clinics. Specialized orthopedic care centers, such as OrthoNOW, have trained specialists to treat your pain with integrated approaches including therapy, medications and supplements.
- Knee Pain: since most of our days are spent behind a desk, our leg muscles are not getting the necessary movement which could result in injuries to the knee. If you are experiencing knee pain, it’s important to rest and ice the knee as well as elevate it, however, in case of extreme pain and swelling, the knee should be seen by an orthopedic doctor or physician assistant.
- Foot and Ankle Pain: while we may not associate the upper body as the cause for injury at the foot and ankle level, many workers injure their lower extremity due to their shoulder posture. Many of us spend 9:00 am-5:00 pm in front of the computer with rounded shoulders. When we stand up with rounded shoulders, our weight falls to the front of our foot. This is mostly due to the misplaced center of gravity which naturally tips us forward with a heel higher than the toe, affecting the feet and ankles.
- Shoulder Pain: there are several types of shoulder injuries that arise at the workplace; some of the most common shoulder injuries are strains, burst and mobility impairment. Like lower back pain, shoulder injuries can be deteriorating and affect productivity severely.
- Neck Pain: with so many areas of the body affected, misalignment of the neck can become quite common in the workplace. Since we sit with rounded shoulders, our neck follows our upper back, yet our eyes look at the screen, so we arch our neck which causes pain.
To prevent lower back pain, experts recommend stretching and strengthening your upper back. Some ways to help your back health are maintaining good posture, avoiding motionless positions for extended periods of time, and stretching often.
To prevent knee pain, it’s important to strengthen the area. Orthopedic clinicians recommend doing exercises like lunges to allow the hips and ankles to bend simultaneously, stabilizing and building up the muscles around the knee. Try doing lunges both forward and backward then side to side.
To prevent foot and ankle injuries, such as plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, and bunions, orthopedic specialists recommend finding ways to help spread the impact to the entire foot. It’s also recommended to wear shoes that are lower in the heel, or shoes that support your feet, like tennis or walking shoes.
To prevent shoulder pain or injury, experts recommend rearranging the workspaces, sitting correctly and maintaining good posture, investing in a headset and finally, taking regular breaks and walks.
To prevent neck pain, orthopedic clinicians recommend avoiding sudden twisting or jerking movement, ensuring the computer monitor is at eye level, using headset, and exercising and stretching your neck.
Most of the recommendations mentioned for a healthy workspace are elements of ergonomics. As we know, the ancient Greeks had some advanced ideas about civilization, so much so, that they were even the early pioneers of ergonomics: the science of designing a workplace to maximize safety and efficiency. It was Hippocrates who detailed how a surgeon’s workplace should be designed and how the tools he uses should be arranged.
Fast forward a couple thousand years and now many organizations provide office ergonomic assessments to help employers keep their workers healthy. Jorge Garrote, chief physical therapist at OrthoNOW Rehabilitation Center, says “adjusting your workspace is a surprisingly powerful way to reduce risk of injury”. Mr. Garrote, who conducts ergonomic assessments to corporations in Miami, FL, follows OSHA’s ergonomic guidelines and recommends the following:
- Position the chair, keyboard and monitor in a straight line with your body.
- Maintain a relaxed, neutral posture.
- Sit up straight, adjusting the chair to provide firm back support.
- Let your arms hang loosely at the shoulders.
- Keep your elbows at a 90-degree angle while typing.
- Use an adjustable keyboard tray to position your keyboard and mouse at a comfortable height (usually lower than the desk surface). Place your mouse next to the keyboard and keep it as close as possible to your body, to avoid reaching.
- Adjust the chair’s height so that your feet are firmly on the ground.
For more information about OrthoNOW’s locations and services, including workers comp and corporate wellness, visit www.orthonowcare.com or download our award-winning mobile app at www.orthonowcare.com/on-my-way-app/.
OrthoNOW®, the nation’s only orthopedic care franchise, is focused on assessment and treatment of a range of orthopedic and sports injuries, chronic conditions, and preventative protocols – all on a walk-in basis. Specialties include anything related to the foot, ankle, knee, hip, wrist, hand, elbow, shoulder and spine.
Every OrthoNOW is equipped with digital imaging equipment and offers the latest techniques and treatments by a team of orthopedic clinicians and orthopedic specialized ancillary providers including Electro Neuro Muscular Therapy (ENMT) which dramatically alleviates acute and chronic pain and expedites recovery time from surgery.
OrthoNOW’s mobile app features a revolutionary feature called On My Way NOW® which allows patients to notify an OrthoNOW Center that they are in route, the reason they’re coming and what time they expect to arrive. The recently upgraded app v2.0 for iPhone users includes integration with Uber. OrthoNOW’s flagship Center is in Doral, Florida, with franchised Centers in Florida and Georgia. Centers are coming soon to Michigan, Ohio and beyond.