The root cause of Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSC) is exposure to MSD risk factors – both work-related risk factors and individual-related risk factors.
Work-related Risk Factors Workplace design plays a crucial role in the development of an MSD.
When a worker is asked to do work that is outside his body’s capabilities and limitations, he is being asked to put his musculoskeletal system at risk.
There are three primary ergonomic risk factors.
High task repetition. Many work tasks and cycles are repetitive in nature, and are frequently controlled by hourly or daily production targets and work processes. High task repetition, when combined with other risks factors such high force and/or awkward postures, can contribute to the formation of MSD. A job is considered highly repetitive if the cycle time is 30 seconds or less.
Forceful exertions. Many work tasks require high force loads on the human body. Muscle effort increases in response to high force requirements, increasing associated fatigue which can lead to MSD.
Repetitive or sustained awkward postures. Awkward postures place excessive force on joints and overload the muscles and tendons around the effected joint. Joints of the body are most efficient when they operate closest to the mid-range motion of the joint. Risk of MSD is increased when joints are worked outside of this mid-range repetitively or for sustained periods of time without adequate recovery time.
Exposure to these workplace risk factors puts workers at a higher level of MSD risk. It’s common sense: high task repetition, forceful exertions and repetitive/sustained awkward postures fatigue the worker’s body beyond their ability to recover, leading to a musculoskeletal imbalance and eventually an MSD.
Individual-related Risk Factors
Human beings are multi-dimensional. Limiting ourselves to a singular cause of Musculoskeletal Disorders will limit our ability to create a prevention strategy that addresses the multi-dimensional worker.
We need to address both workplace risk factors and individual risk factors.
Individual risk factors include:
Poor work practices. Workers who use poor work practices, body mechanics and lifting techniques are introducing unnecessary risk factors that can contribute to MSDs. These poor practices create unnecessary stress on their bodies that increases fatigue and decreases their body’s ability to properly recover.
Poor overall health habits. Workers who smoke, drink excessively, are obese, or exhibit numerous other poor health habits are putting themselves at risk for not only musculoskeletal disorders, but also for other chronic diseases that will shorten their life and health span.
Poor rest and recovery. MSDs develop when fatigue outruns the workers recovery system, causing a musculoskeletal imbalance. Workers who do not get adequate rest and recovery put themselves at higher risk.
Poor nutrition, fitness and hydration. For a country as developed as the United States, an alarming number of people are malnourished, dehydrated and at such a poor level of physical fitness that climbing one flight of stairs puts many people out of breath. Workers who do not take care of their bodies are putting themselves at a higher risk of developing musculoskeletal and chronic health problems.
Exposure to these individual risk factors puts workers at a higher level of MSD risk. Just like workplace risk factors, individual risk factors are common sense: when a worker uses poor work practice, has bad health habits, doesn’t get adequate rest and recovery and doesn’t take care of their bodies with a good nutrition and fitness regimen, they are at greater risk for fatigue to outrun their recovery system. Having a poor overall health profile puts them at greater risk of developing a musculoskeletal imbalance and eventually an MSD.
For more information on preventing Musculoskeletal Disorders at work, or for treating Musculoskeletal Disorders, contact Comprehensive Pain Management in Attleboro, MA.