Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) have a tremendous impact in the workplace, emerging as an ever-growing problem in our modern society. According to the Centers for Disease Prevention (CDC), MSDs “are associated with high costs to employers such as absenteeism, lost productivity, and increased health care, disability, and worker’s compensation costs.” They represent the “second-largest cause of short-term work disability” and “are responsible for morbidity in many working populations.”
The health care profession is known for having one of the highest risks of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMDs). Despite this fact, it is among the least studied occupation. Health care professionals such as nurses, dentists, physical therapists, lab technicians, and others sustain numerous musculoskeletal disorders during the course of their work day. Even in many developed countries, WRMDs among health care professionals are under-reported; in developing countries, they are downright ignored. However, the reality is that the work of some health care professionals is hard and unhealthy, sometimes producing irreversible physical injuries. Here are three of the most affected health care professionals:
Nurses and health care personnel occupy the sixth place among nonfatal occupational injuries recorded by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Among the many occupational health risks they are exposed to, nurses most often complain of musculoskeletal disorders, particularly in the neck (20%), shoulders (17%), and back (29%, according to one study). The main causes include:
- Lifting heavy loads
- Working in awkward postures for prolonged periods
- Transferring or lifting dependent patients
- Work overload
Age and lifestyle also add to the mix as aggravating factors: nurses with 20+ of experience were four times more likely to develop WRMDs. The prevalence of WMSDs in health care facilities is further increased by the shortage of personnel and management changes. Top mitigating strategies include getting help in handling patients, changing nursing procedures to avoid re-injury, and modification of nurse’s position to avoid strain.
Dentists are required to have a high degree of concentration and precision. But often, the poor working postures, repetitive movements, and constant vibration to the hand and wrist may cause various levels of physical disability. Approximately 30 percent of dentists who retire early cite WRMDs as a cause. According to the American Dental Association, some of the most common causes of WRMDs in dental practices include:
- Static awkward postures
- Prolonged exposure to hand-transmitted vibration that can affect the tendons, muscles, joints, and nerves
- Repetitive motions that may lead to tendinitis and bursitis
- Prolonged muscular contractions that can increase muscle tension and fluid pressure, adversely impacting the musculoskeletal system
- Psychological stress that can increase the risk for a musculoskeletal injury
According to estimates, a dentist can work up to 60,000 hours over the course of his/her life, often attending to an excessive number of patients and remaining in tense and uncomfortable positions the entire day. But dentists aren’t the only ones affected: hygienists, assistants, and lab technicians are also exposed to musculoskeletal issues (between 40 and 60 percent, according to dental literature). Coping strategies include using ergonomically-designed furniture and equipment, proper lighting to avoid eye strain, taking regular breaks, and performing a stretching routine.
There is extensive evidence that WRMDs have a high impact on physical therapists. As a result of developing various levels of physical disability, physical therapists reported taking days off of work, changing practice habits, changing employers, or leaving the profession altogether. Most common risk factors for WMSDs are lifting and transferring heavy patients and performing manual therapy in awkward and hazardous postures. Use of mobilization and manipulation techniques that require a high level of force are also factors related to the increased prevalence of musculoskeletal symptoms. Most affected body areas include the neck, fingers, hands, wrists, and back.
Chiropractic Care for WRMDs
For many musculoskeletal disorders caused by work conditions, there are typically two courses of treatment: painkillers and surgery, none of which are guaranteed to provide permanent relief from pain. As a result, many sufferers seek relief from musculoskeletal disorders at the chiropractor’s office, who uses safe and non-invasive techniques to relieve pain naturally. Diversified chiropractic manipulations are the first choice of treatment for musculoskeletal affections of the neck and back, followed by flexion distraction for the treatment of lumbar disc syndrome and other spinal problems. Soft tissue therapies and exercise prescriptions have also proven beneficial in the treatment of spinal musculoskeletal disorders.
In addition, your chiropractor can educate you about taking care of your health better by devising nutrition plan and educating you about the benefits of using ergonomic equipment to minimize the strain at work. He can also recommend additional therapies that can help you achieve the maximum relief from pain and allow your body to start healing itself naturally. Call your local chiropractor now to talk about the natural and safe options most suitable for your condition.
About the Author
Dr. Marc Browner is the Founder of iChiropractic and Wellness in Naples, Florida. A graduate of the University of Florida in 1991, he earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic in 1995. In private practice since 1998, Dr. Browner is a member of the Florida Chiropractic Society, the Florida Chiropractic Association, and he attends continuing education seminars, classes, and workshops to remain abreast of the most current treatment methods and technological advances in the field.