Most of us get up each day and go to work.
And if you work in an office environment, you may not consider the possibility of work related injuries the same way someone in a more dangerous environment such as a factory or construction site might.
The fact is, however, all workplaces have their risks. On a construction site you may be acutely aware of factors such as heavy equipment, tripping hazards, or the need for protective equipment such as steel toe boots and hard hats.
But in an office setting, the risks for workers are more subtle.
That’s where ergonomics comes into play.
What Is Ergonomics?
Ergonomics is the science of building a workspace to fit the worker’s needs, rather than expecting people to fit into standardized workstations.
It’s geared toward creating a space that minimizes your risk of injury, while at the same time helping you to avoid aggravating any previous injuries you may have sustained.
Ergonomics & Job Safety
Job safety becomes even more prevalent for workers who are required to lift and move things or operate machinery.
Ensuring ergonomic workstations has impacts on employee safety, as it can help prevent injury.
In addition it can help improve employee morale, and increases productivity, because workers who are comfortable are often better workers.
How To Recognize Ergonomic Risks
When looking to identify ergonomic issues in a workspace, there are some common areas which can cause worker discomfort to consider. These include:
- Poor lighting which can lead to eye strain
- Workstations which are not well suited to those using them, leading to awkward posture
- Temperature – too hot or too cold
- Excessive noise
- The need to perform repetitive movements to complete work tasks, without rest
- Environmental conditions
- Contact stress
- Repeated force
Physical Therapy Treatments For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is an orthopedic health condition which results in numbness, weakness, and pain in the hands and wrists.
The carpal tunnel is a passage which runs down the wrist, and it houses the nerve which helps your fingers bend.
When pressure is applied to this nerve it can result in pain and weakness in the hand and wrist.
The onset of carpal tunnel syndrome is usually gradual.
It generally includes a tingling or burning sensation in the thumb and index finger.
Certain actions can make it more noticeable, including computer use, holding a cell phone, attempting to hold and lift heavy objects, and gripping things for extended periods of time.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure on the median nerve which is located at the base of the palm.
It is associated with medical conditions which result in excess pressure on the wrist and median nerve, including:
- Wrist trauma such as fractures
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Thyroid issues
- Conditions which cause fluid retention such as menopause or pregnancy
Repeated motion can make it worse. Factors which can contribute include overextension of the wrist while typing or playing the piano, exposure to vibration such as power tools, and improper positioning of the wrists while using a mouse or keyboard.
The specific forms of physical therapy for carpal tunnel syndrome will depend on the cause of your carpal tunnel syndrome, as well as how advanced it is.
For early stages of the condition, your program of treatment may include:
- Education on ways to keep it from worsening, including proper posture, proper positioning of your hands and wrist, and safety precautions for using tools
- Stretching exercises
- Using a splint to reduce discomfort
- Hot and cold treatments for pain management
- Exercises to strengthen the hand, wrist, and forearms
In severe cases of carpal tunnel syndrome, you may need surgery.
Physical therapy treatments can help after surgery to prevent the formation of scar tissue and restore wrist strength.
Physical Therapy Treatments For Poor Posture
We’ve all heard about the importance of good posture.
If a parent or teacher has ever reminded you to sit up straight, or if you’ve ever made an effort to sit up in an important meeting or job interview, then you know it’s something people notice.
Posture, however, is about more than just sitting upright so it looks like you’re paying attention to whatever is going on.
Maintaining good posture can help prevent back pain, reduce the chance of injuries, and result in fewer aches.
Proper posture can also lead to better mental and emotional well-being.
Poor posture is when your spine is placed in unnatural positions which result in stress on your vertebrae.
When this positioning is prolonged, it results in excess pressure on joints and tissues.
Factors which can contribute to poor posture include:
- Poorly designed workspaces or chairs without good back support
- Lack of awareness of correct posture
- Low core stability
- Inactive lifestyle
- Tightness of muscles
- Low fitness level
- Stiffness of the joints
- Occupational factors
- Muscle weakness
Much of the treatment for poor posture involves education on proper posture, and regular reminders for individuals to “sit up straight” and “put their shoulders back”.
As well, an ergonomic assessment of the workplace can provide guidance for creating better workstations.
In addition to this increased awareness, physical therapy can help address factors such as muscle stiffness or weakness and may include:
- Core exercises
- Manual therapy
- Soft tissue massage
- Corrective exercises
- Modification of activities
- Dry needling
Physical Therapy Treatments For Workplace Injuries
Every workplace has hazards. Some have greater hazards than others, but the hazards are still there.
Let’s take a look at ways physical therapy can help with some other common workplace injuries.
You might think of a fall as a fall from a height such as a ladder. However, slipping on a wet floor or tripping over a power cord also count in this category.
Slips, trips, and falls are in fact the most common injury which occurs in an office environment.
Most falls are preventable, and some tips to prevent them include:
- Using a stepladder when reaching for items which are too high, instead of climbing on a chair or counter
- Ensuring walkways are clear of clutter
- Closing drawers and file cabinets after using them
- Reporting torn and loose carpets to building maintenance
- Tidying spills which someone could slip on
Because falls can cause a wide range of different injuries, physical therapy treatments for falls can vary from person to person. Regardless, though, the focus will be on alleviating your pain, helping you accomplish your daily tasks, and helping you get back to work.
Proper lifting technique is important, even for items which are not very heavy.
Improper lifting can lead to back, neck, and shoulder injuries.
These injuries are common in workplaces where you’re expected to lift heavy things, like movers, warehouse workers, and construction workers. They’re also common causes for people seeking physical therapy for sports injuries.
Lifting properly involves:
- Using your knees and not your back to lift, and bending your knees to lower items to the ground
- Keeping your back straight
- Holding the item you are lifting close to your body
Lifting injuries can be wide ranging as well, and may include:
- Rotator cuff injuries
- Shoulder impingement
- Meniscus tear
- Disk herniation
- IT band injuries
- Achilles tendonitis
- Lateral elbow tendonitis (tennis elbow)
- Hamstring tears
Each of these conditions has a different physical therapy service treatment protocol associated with it. Regardless of which condition is ailing you, however, Capitol Physical Therapy can help.
If your job involves repetitive motions, you may be at risk for developing repetitive strain injuries.
These commonly develop in the wrists, elbows, and fingers.
When it comes to repetitive strain injuries it is best to make attempts prevent it by resting when you start to notice symptoms such as numbness or tingling.
Things which can help prevent it from getting worse include:
- Proper hydration
- Stretching the affected muscles
Some of the most common repetitive strain injuries include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
These injuries tend to occur around your joints. Capitol Physical Therapy can help you manage your repetitive strain injury, reducing your pain, and creating an ergonomic workspace that avoids further injuries.
Physical Therapy Treatments For Desk Workers
A poorly designed workstation can lead to a variety of issues for workers who sit at a desk all day.
Everything from a chair without proper back support, to a computer screen at the wrong height can result in injury to the neck, back, and shoulders.
Some common issues office workers may face include:
- Back pain due to poor posture
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Neck strain
- Spinal issues
First and foremost a physical therapist can help provide guidelines for designing an ergonomic workstation to help prevent these injuries from occurring in the first place.
Practices such as taking frequent breaks to move and stretch while working, changing positions if you start to feel pain, and being aware of the effects of actions such as twisting to reach for items can help keep small issues from becoming big ones.
Book Your Appointment With Capitol Physical Therapy
Are you experiencing injuries due to poor ergonomics in the workplace?
After sitting at a computer all day, do you experience wrist pain or eye strain?
If you have developed ergonomic injuries, Capitol Physical Therapy can help.
Contact us today for a consultation.