According to a report issued by the United States Bone and Joint Initiative (USBJI), one in two adults are affected by musculoskeletal disorders, which is comparable to the number of Americans living with a chronic lung or heart condition.
Musculoskeletal disorders can impact overall employee health in several ways at home and at work. Let’s take a closer look at what they include and how they can affect your workplace.
What are musculoskeletal disorders?
Musculoskeletal disorders are conditions and injuries that affect your bones, joints, and muscles. This could include, but not limited to:
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Ligament Pain/Sprain
- Muscle Strain
- Ruptured/Herniated Disc
- Back Pain
- Neck Pain
- Repetitive Strain Injury
What are the risk factors?
There are three primary risk factors that cause musculoskeletal disorders: high force, awkward posture, and high frequency or repetition.
Overexertion occurs when the force required exceeds the tolerance of the body’s tissues. The greater the force required, the greater the risk of injury. Examples of this include:
- Lifting, carrying, or lowering heavy objects
- Pushing or pulling heavy objects
- Forceful gripping with hands
- Use of tools that require a lot of effort to hold, control, or use
- Using hands for hammering
Awkward or Static Posture
Performing tasks that require a static or awkward posture increases the risk of strains and pains. This could include bending or twisting away from a neutral position or holding the same position for long periods of time. Examples include:
- Bending or twisting the back or trunk
- Bending or twisting the wrist
- Working with hands above the shoulders or away from the body
- Holding the neck to one side
- Picking up or holding things that require a difficult grip or position
Repetition is when tasks or similar motions are consistently performed per minute, hour, shift, or day. High frequency tasks can cause muscle fatigue, damage tissue, and can cause pain and discomfort. Repetitive tasks include:
- Lifting objects repeatedly
- Pushing and pulling repeatedly
- Repeated awkward back or neck posture
- Sitting or standing in the same position for an extended period, conducting the same task
In addition to the three primary risk factors, there are also secondary factors that could increase the risk of a musculoskeletal disorder. This includes contact stress, vibration, temperature, work organization, and work methods.
How do musculoskeletal disorders affect you and your employees?
Employees who suffer from musculoskeletal issues are often absent from work, or when they are on the job, work at a limited capacity, resulting in reduced productivity due to the overall strain of chronic condition management.
Musculoskeletal conditions can be very costly to both you and your employees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, musculoskeletal disorders are the largest category of workplace injuries, responsible for nearly 30% of all workers’ compensation costs. OSHA reports that employers spend as much as $20 billion a year on direct costs for musculoskeletal-related workers’ compensation and up to five times that much for indirect costs, like those associated with hiring and training replacement workers.
How can I help my employees prevent and recover from musculoskeletal disorders?
There are several things you, as an employer, can do to address workforce health. First, you should ensure you’re providing employee health solutions that include tools and equipment that facilitate better body mechanics. Second, make sure that your employees are properly trained to engage in safe practices at work. Then you’ll want to ensure they have adequate breaks to rest. It’s also a good idea to rotate tasks so the same muscle groups aren’t engaged over extended periods of time.
Finally, you should offer your employees robust health resources that will help them reduce workplace injuries. WellOnMyWay offers an integrated injury prevention and recovery program that helps employees stay healthy and pain-free in a high-quality, low-cost way. Through a wide variety of physical therapy-driven injury prevention and recovery treatment plans, employees learn to improve their range of motion and strengthen areas susceptible to injury, reducing the need for high-cost treatments and time away from work.