What is ergonomics?

Ergonomics is the science that deals with modifying your workspace environment, in order to make it more efficient and safe. The aim of ergonomics is to prevent injuries and musculoskeletal disorders (MSD’s) that can result from continuous exposure to force, repetitive motion, or awkward posture in your work environment. 

Musculoskeletal disorders include any injury or disorder that affects your muscles, tendons (tissues that connect muscles to bones), ligaments (tissues that connect bone to bone), nerves, joints, cartilage (tissues that provide cushioning and reduces the friction between bones), and spinal disks (rubbery pads between the vertebrae). 

Understanding the causes of musculoskeletal disorders, especially those that are work-related remains the key to its prevention. This has led to increased awareness among the workers, and the employees that a strong connection exists between the factors in your work environment and the development of MSD’s. 

These factors require attention as they can result in significant sickness, absence, and reduced productivity. 

The steps of creating an ergonomically sound work environment include designing tasks, workspaces, displays, controls, tools, and lighting to fit the employee’s physical capabilities and limitations. 

Good ergonomics can improve your health, give you a better work experience, and also increase productivity. Read on to understand more about work-related musculoskeletal disorders.

What are the different musculoskeletal disorders associated with poor ergonomics?

Common examples of work-related musculoskeletal disorders include the following:

  • Strain. A strain is an overstretched, twisted, or torn muscle or a tendon. Common areas that are affected include your back, legs, knees, and feet. Strains usually develop over time and result from repetitive movements. Sitting or standing in an awkward position for a long time can also cause strains.

  • Sprain. A sprain is an overstretched, twisted, or torn ligament (tissues that connect one bone to another). The commonly affected areas include wrists, thumbs, ankles, and knees.

  • Tendonitis. It is a condition where the tendons become irritated or inflamed. It commonly affects your wrists, shoulders, elbows, and knees. The most common cause of tendonitis is a repetitive action, i.e., repeating a certain movement over and over. 

  • Tenosynovitis. Tendons are covered by a protective sheath known as the synovium. This sheath produces synovial fluid that helps in keeping the tendons lubricated. An injury to the tendon that results in the inflammation or swelling of the synovial sheath is called tenosynovitis. In this condition, the sheath fails to produce enough synovial fluid to lubricate the tendon.

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition that affects your hand. It can cause pain, numbness, burning, itching, and a tingling sensation in your palm and fingers. It occurs as a result of the compression of the nerves in your palm. Incorrect positioning of your palm for long hours, working with vibrating tools, or repetitive flexing of the wrist can result in carpal tunnel syndrome.

What are the symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders?

Common symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders include:

  • Recurrent pain in any part of the body

  • Swelling and stiffness in the joints

  • Weakness and dull aches in the muscles

  • Numbness or a tingling sensation in the hands, feet, back, or neck

Symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders can interfere with your daily activities as you may develop a limited range of motion. 

How to implement workplace ergonomics?

  • Design your workspace. A preferred approach to prevent or control work-related musculoskeletal disorders is to design the workspace considering the capabilities and limitations of the workforce.
    This can include changing your workstation layout, using height-adjustable chairs, locating tools and other materials within reachable distances, etc. 

  • Manage work policies. Managing the strategies and policies in a way that suits you can help in reducing the risk of work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
    This includes modifying the shift timings, scheduling more breaks, rotating workers for jobs that are physically tiring, and following measures that can ease the burden of the task.

  • Use protective devices. Using protective devices such as earplugs, respirators, safety goggles, aprons, safety shoes, etc. can help avoid certain ergonomic hazards. 

Following these ergonomic measures can effectively reduce the risk of work-related musculoskeletal disorders. 

However, if you are experiencing musculoskeletal disorders that are affecting your everyday activities, then you should consult a doctor and take appropriate treatment.

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.