In the 90s, the U.S. Department of Labor called carpal tunnel syndrome the “chief occupational hazard” of the decade. We expect tools and equipment to help save time. To make our work easier. But we have learned these “improvements” can also harm us. They force our bodies into unnatural positions. That puts too much stress on our muscles, tendons and skeleton. Over time, repetitive and awkward movements cause damage.
Today, we have an entire industry devoted to ergonomics. We have ergonomic solutions proven to reduce carpal tunnel syndrome risk. But no one has yet found a way to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. That’s because there are so many potential causes.
Ergonomics is “The applied science of equipment design, as for the workplace, intended to maximize productivity by reducing operator fatigue and discomfort.” The point is to reduce the chance of musculoskeletal injuries on the job. Ergonomically designed equipment helps people maintain proper posture. There are ergonomic solutions aimed specifically at reducing risk of carpal tunnel syndrome. There are also solutions aimed at reducing strain on other joints, from neck to feet.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Is Still an Expensive Problem
It continues to be the most-reported medical condition. About 900,000 cases are reported each year. Almost half of workers’ comp claims each year are due to carpal tunnel syndrome. This injury:
That’s enough to make any workers’ comp or HR professional cringe.
You have to understand the causes in order to reduce risks. Some chronic diseases make you prone to carpal tunnel syndrome. Those include diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and hypothyroidism. Usually, though, the carpal tunnel is damaged by repetitive motion. The sheath that carries tendons and nerves through the wrist joint becomes swollen. That puts too much pressure on the nerves.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be very painful. It can cause numbness. It can even cause paralysis of the wrist. Left untreated, symptoms can turn into permanent injury.
Who Is at Risk?
A lot of people associate carpel tunnel syndrome with keyboard jobs. But many other types of work involve repetitive movement of the wrist. Cutting hair. Making espresso drinks. Driving a truck or operating heavy machinery. Cashiering. Office workers are not even in the top ten when it comes to carpal tunnel syndrome risk. You may be surprised by that.
In fact, the highest risk occupations (in order) are:
Carpel tunnel syndrome can result in workers comp claims across many industries. Obviously, then, reducing risk is crucial. Ergonomic solutions can save money and improve job satisfaction. You may even reduce turnover, if people are leaving due to job-related pains.
5 Ergonomic Solutions You Should Implement
Some solutions involve modifying or replacing equipment. Some solutions involve using equipment and tools in a different way. And some solutions involve using our bodies in different ways. We have listed five key ergonomic solutions here. Each one is designed to avoid or reduce the impact of repetitive motion.
Some of these solutions are useful for all types of workers. You can adapt other ideas, according to each job. Or each work environment.
Do your jobs require exerting a lot of force? Do workers use equipment that vibrates? These conditions cause even more strain on the wrists and hands. That makes relaxation and stretching breaks even more important.
A recent New York Times health guide notes, “Many companies are now taking action to help prevent repetitive stress injuries. In a major survey, 84% reported that they were modifying equipment, tasks and processes. Nearly 85% were analyzing their workstations and jobs, and 79% were buying new equipment.”
They further note, “Proper posture and exercise programs to strengthen the fingers, hands, wrists, forearms, shoulders, and neck may help prevent CTS.”
If one of your workers is injured, their physical therapist may teach them more ergonomic ways to work. But as a smart employer, you don’t want to wait until someone is hurt. Proactive prevention measures can reduce risk of carpel tunnel syndrome. Consider:
Workers’ comp professionals worry about the costs of carpal tunnel syndrome. And for good reason. Adopting ergonomic solutions that reduce risk can save your company money. You’ll be able to increase productivity, too.
Locate one of our nationwide OnSite Physio therapists now.