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Definition And Examples Of Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)

Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)

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MSDs occur when the physical capabilities of the worker do not match the physical requirements of the job. They are caused by job activities and conditions, like lifting heavy objects, repetitive motions, and work in confined areas.

  • MSDs are injuries and disorders of the soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, and cartilage) and nervous system.
  • They can affect nearly all tissues, including the nerves and tendon sheaths, and most frequently involve the arms and back.
  • MSDs are the leading cause of disability for people in their working years.
  • Complaints about back, knee and shoulder/upper arm are the most prevalent among construction workers.

Studies indicate upper limb and shoulder MSDs were related to manual handling, work repetitiveness, psychosocial demands, job dissatisfaction, gender, and physical unfitness.

Construction workers have an increased risk of these injuries in the following instances:

  • when carrying heavy loads
  • twisting hands or wrist
  • stretching to work overhead
  • using certain types of tools
  • using vibrating tools or equipment

Lower Back

Lower Back - MSDs

When you bend forward, your back muscles work harder and the ligaments flex and stretch. The discs get squeezed. As they are squeezed, they can press on different parts of the spine, including nerves. This can cause back pain. If you bend forward over and over for months or years, the discs are weakened, which may lead to disc rupture (or “herniation”).

Twisting your body while bending puts even more pressure on the discs, and more stress on the cartilage and ligaments, especially when you are exerting force to lift, push, or pull objects.

Knee

The muscles in your knees are connected to your leg by tendons. Between the tendons and bones are small sacs of fluid called a bursa. They lubricate the knee so it moves easily.

Continual stress on your knee can cause the bursa to get squeezed, swollen, stiff, and inflamed (bursitis). This stress can also cause the knee tendons to become inflamed, resulting in pain (tendinitis).

If you work in a kneeled, stooped position, there is stress on your lower back as well as your knees, possibly leading to back pain and even a serious back injury.

Shoulder

Shoulder pain and injuries are usually the results of overworking the shoulder. When you keep your arm raised above your shoulder (or keep your arm stretched out), your shoulder begins to ache after a short time. It tires easily.

Conditions that result from overuse or continual stress on your shoulder include the following:

  • Bursitis – a painful condition that affects the small, fluid-filled “bursae” sacs that cushion the bones, tendons, and muscles
  • Tendinitis – inflammation or irritation of a tendon that attaches muscle to bone
  • Rotator Cuff Tear – when the tendon partially or completely pulls away from the arm bone

All of these conditions can make routine activities very difficult and painful.

Neck

The neck is a complicated structure composed of seven bones called cervical vertebrae, one below another. It also has cartilage, nerves, muscles, and ligaments. When you keep your neck bent forward or backward, or bend it frequently, the muscles work harder and the ligaments flex and stretch. Eventually, the ligaments can partially tear, resulting in neck sprain.

Tendinitis

Tendinitis

Most of the muscles that move your hand and fingers are actually in your forearm. These muscles are connected to the hand and fingers by tendons, which are like cords passing through your wrist.

You can strain the tendons in your wrist if you frequently exert strong force with your hand, bend your wrist while working, or repeat the same wrist movements over and over. If this strain continues over time, you may develop tendinitis. Tendinitis makes it painful to use your hand, especially to grasp things.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The carpal tunnel is an area in your wrist that is surrounded by bone and tissue. A nerve and several tendons pass through this tunnel. If you have tendinitis and your tendons swell, there is less room in the tunnel for the nerve. When the nerve is squeezed this way, the condition is called carpal tunnel syndrome. It often leads to pain, tingling, or numbness in your hand, wrist, or arm. These symptoms are often felt at night.

If left untreated, carpal tunnel syndrome can weaken the hand and make it very difficult to grasp things or even use that hand at all.

Epicondylitis

Forceful twisting motions may cause strain on your elbow tendons, causing discomfort or pain. This condition is called epicondylitis, also known as tennis elbow.

Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS)

This condition is also called Renauld’s Syndrome and White-Finger Syndrome. Operating vibrating tools like needle guns, chipping hammers, and rotary hammer drills may lead to finger discoloration, tingling, and numbness. Gangrene is possible in the most severe cases.

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