Repetitive Strain & Over Exertion Injuries - Prevention & Treatment

Have you ever suffered from a repetitive strain or over-use injury? Most of us have. Early diagnosis & treatment are vital. Find out what you & your workplace can do to prevent these injuries from happening or getting worse.

Muscular skeletal injuries (MSI) is a broad term used to describe these injuries. MSI results from over-exertion (too much force) or over-use (repetitive use) of muscles, tendons & ligaments. Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is another broad term used to describe injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis & bursitis.

According to the Canadian Physiotherapy Association, RSI is one of today’s major occupational hazards, affecting 2.3 million Canadians annually. Management & employees have to work together to eliminate these injuries. It is always easier, less costly & less painful to prevent injuries than to heal or cure them.

Management’s Responsibility:

1Evaluate work stations & tools (perform an ergonomic assesment) to ensure that they are free from hazards & fit the employee (not everyone is the same size). For example, when your employee is sitting back on their chair, are their feet flat on the ground? Is the top of their monitor at eye level & arms length away? Is there a wrist pad for their keyboard? For counter jobs, put anti-fatigue mats on the floor & provide chairs so that employees can sit on occassion.

2Evaluate work processes & methods. For example, it may help to lighten loads that employees have to move. Find other ways to move/handle heavy loads (machines for example). Improve the layout. Use mobile storage racks. Install hand grips to make objects easier to grasp/move.

3Respond immediately to employee concerns. A key component to an effective prevention & treatment plan is to identify & then alter or eliminate the situations/hazards that caused them. For example, have the employee alternate tasks (using different muscles for each job). Rotate workers through jobs. Encourage frequent short breaks instead of 1 long break.

4Provide appropriate health & safety equipment & training. Implement employee wellness events & programs. Arrange wellness presentations so that your team will know how to take care of their back muscles, how to lift properly, how to stretch etc.

The Employee’s Responsibility:

1  Maintain correct posture to prevent tight muscles & strain on joints (check posture often).

2  If you are physically active at work, warm-up before you start.

3  If you have a sedentary job, change your position throughout the day. Alternate between sitting & standing when possible.

4  Whether you job is physical or sedentary, do light stretches throughout your day to keep muscles limber & to prevent fatigue.

5  Take better care of yourself physically. Keep your body well rested & nourished & your muscles conditioned. Exercise lower back & abdominal muscles (your core) to improve your posture. Try a yoga class.

6  Consider the way that you move your body. Are you typing on your keyboard with force? Change from pulling loads to pushing them. Never twist & lift a load at the same time. Ask for help if something is awkward or heavy to move.

7  Consider the things that you do both on & off the job. For example, if you are experiencing wrist discomfort, perhaps tennis isn’t the best sport for you (try another activity).

8  Listen to your body. Report work related discomfort immediately. Stop what you are doing (don’t work through pain). 

9  When an injury happens, initial treatment is RICE: Rest, Immobilize, Cool & Elevate. Immobilize with back belts or wrist brace (only when healing, don’t rely on these on these for support on the long-term). Fill out a First Aid/Incident Report at work. Visit your doctor. Ask what Alberta Health Care covers & if you need a requisition to see a physiotherapist, chiropractor or massage therapist). Inform the Worker's Compensation Board.

10  Staying inactive & in bed won’t help with rehabilitation. Continue with light activities to speed up the healing process.

11 Visit a physiotherapist. When I was injured, they helped to eliminate scar tissue through ultra sound. Massage & accupuncture was used. They coached me through exercises & stretches. I was surprised how fast I healed. Physiotherapists will also offer suggestions to prevent re-occurring injuries. 

I hope this information has proved helpful. If interested in more information about Health & Wellness presentations, check this link Injury prevention is always our focus. We will make a positive difference.