Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTDs) are strains that result from long–term repetitive motion or from continually working in an awkward position. Strains commonly occur in the wrists, arms, shoulders or back, affecting the body’s joints and surrounding muscles and tendons.
CTDs are said to be today’s fastest growing occupational problem, affecting all types of employees, from computer operators to construction workers. Modern equipment, new tools, and machinery have increased production capabilities in many ways. But in some cases, they have also increased the potential for strain injuries in people. These disorders not only cause great discomfort, they can also affect a person’s employment options and personal lifestyle choices.
CTDs are usually caused by a combination of the following risk factors:
- Repetitive motions
- Forceful exertions – pulling, pushing, lifting, and gripping
- Awkward postures – body positions that are not the natural resting position
- Static postures – body positions held without moving
- Mechanical compression of soft tissues in the hand against edges or ridges, such as using tools or objects which press against the palm
- Fast movement of body parts
- Vibration, especially in the presence of cold conditions
- Mental stress
- Lack of sufficient recovery time (rest breaks, days off), which will increase the risk of developing a CTD by any of the above factors.
Suggestions for reducing your exposure to CTDs:
- Warm-up with exercises or stretches before beginning physically demanding tasks.
- Plan ahead, if you will be doing a job that is awkward–think of ways to make it easier.
- Rotate your work position, to change how muscles are used during your work shift.
- Use the proper tool for the job to avoid awkward movements and the need for overexertion.
- Take a rest break when fatigue sets in. Just a few minutes can make a difference.
- Carefully stretch tired or overworked muscles to improve circulation and relieve tension.
- When appropriate, use anti-shock or anti-vibration gloves, back supports, wrist supports, or other personal protective equipment that helps prevent cumulative trauma.
- Always use proper lifting techniques. Back strain is one of the most common CTDs.
- Just because a co-worker is not affected by a physically demanding task, don’t ignore messages your body sends you. Although humans share many physical characteristics, people are often different in terms of their physical strengths and weaknesses.
All muscle discomfort and fatigue is not a cumulative trauma disorder. Everyone experiences occasional aches and pains from both work and play – especially when you are not used to the activity. Nevertheless, awkward, repetitive work positions can result in long-term physical problems, so it’s up to you to avoid these in whatever ways you can. If the pain or discomfort doesn’t go away within a day or two, follow the above suggestions.
If you have early symptoms of chronic discomfort, report it immediately to your supervisor. The sooner a better tool or work position can be incorporated into your work activities, the sooner those symptoms can be controlled.
It is important that the job and the workplace fit the worker, both physically and mentally, rather than forcing the worker to fit the job. The study of fitting the job to the worker and improving the workplace is called ergonomics. An ergonomist is a trained professional who is qualified to evaluate jobs/work sites and recommend changes in the layout of work stations, equipment, tool design, work habits, and work organization. Because CTDs have become a widespread problem in so many industries, prevention measures should be regarded as both effective and cost-effective.
If you have any questions or need more information found in this posting, please contact the LL Roberts Group or our new Safety Division, Roberts Risk Management (toll free) at 877.878.6463. You can even talk to us on Facebook or Twitter!