Also known as MSDs, Musculoskeletal disorders, account for several conditions that require days away from work. It is also assessed that it can cost businesses billions, annually. Almost every industry including restaurants, hotels, and more importantly manufacturing, are at risk of MSDs. It is extremely important to identify and treat these disorders early to prevent people from being unable to work and saving them a lot of money outright. Workplace injuries account for most of the MSDs today. While laying down strategies for prevention, it is also important to understand the causes and symptoms of MSDs, in order to deal with the issue, effectively.

What is a Musculoskeletal Disorder?

Injuries and conditions that affect the movement of the human body or the musculoskeletal system comprising of tendons, ligaments, muscles, discs, blood vessels, nerves, etc. are known as Musculoskeletal Disorders – a term that is collectively used to describe the issue.

Repetitive Motion Injury, Repetitive Stress Injury, Overuse Injury and much more, are other common terminologies for MSDs. While the titles might vary, Musculoskeletal Disorder by itself points to one singular cause for damage that is repetition and stress.

Cause of MSDs

The primary cause of MSDs is attributed to the exposure of the individual to risk factors where fatigue outruns the body’s recovery system. Patients develop musculoskeletal imbalance and eventually, a disorder develops. Risk factors for MSDs can be divided into two – ergonomic or work-related and individual risk factors.

Ergonomic

The design of a workplace plays a crucial role in the development of MSD. When individuals work beyond the body’s limitations and capabilities, they are risking their musculoskeletal system. An objective assessment of the workstation will provide us with insight, whether or not, the individual’s recovery system will keep up with the fatigue as the job is performed.

A musculoskeletal disorder is imminent due to ergonomic risk factors.Work-related risk factors are further divided into high task repetition, forceful exertions, and awkward postures. These are considered as primary culprits of MSDs.

Repetition of Tasks

Controlled frequently by the daily and hourly production targets and work processes, tasks and work cycles can be highly repetitive. When combined with other risk factors, awkward postures including high force activities, and repetition of tasks can contribute to the advent of MSD. If the cycle time is 30 seconds or less, then the task is considered highly monotonous and tiresome.

Exertion with Force

Several work tasks involve high levels of muscle response, which lead to force loads on the human body. This increases fatigue, leading to MSD.

Postures

It is not unknown that awkward postures can be detrimental. These impose excessive force on the joints and tend to overload the muscles and tendons. Joint efficiency depends primarily upon its closest mid-range motion. When these are worked outside of the mid-range repetitively without providing it adequate recovery time, it leads to an increased risk of MSD.

Workers exposed to such forceful exertions, repetitive tasks and prolonged awkward postures, experience fatigue, and the body is beyond its ability to recover. The resultant musculoskeletal imbalance ultimately leads to MSD.

Individual Factors

As multidimensional beings, humans cannot be limited to a singular cause when it comes to MSD. Furthermore, this restriction may also hinder our ability to create prevention strategies that aid the multidimensional individual worker.

Work Practices

For individuals, risk factors of MSD are in the form of poor work practices including body mechanics, lifting techniques, etc. that attract unwanted stress and fatigue. Simultaneously, the body also loses its ability to recover appropriately. Excessive drinking, smoking and poor overall health habits can put individuals at risk of multiple chronic diseases including MSD.

Rest & Recovery

When fatigue outruns your recovery system, then MSD develops causing musculoskeletal irregularities. This is primarily because, individuals do not pay much attention to the adequate rest and recovery process required, thus putting themselves at a higher risk. Following this, poor fitness, lack of hydration, and improper nutrition routines add to the plight, again leading to chronic health issues as well as MSD.

Symptoms

Some of the most common symptoms of MSDs are:

  • Stiffness, weakness and pain – all of them often persistent.
  • Decreased range of motion – limiting mobility, dexterity and functional abilities.
  • Noises in the joints – where early diagnosis and treatment are not available, joint deformity may be visualised.
  • Inflammation – along with pain and impaired function, there is redness, swelling and warmth in the overlying skin area.

On a broader perspective, there could be associated impacts on mental well-being due to the individual’s inability to actively participate in social activities

Impacts of MSD

MSD can affect the following:

  • Joints – osteoarthritis, psoriatic arthritis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis
  • Spine – back and neck pain
  • Muscles – sarcopenia
  • Bones – osteoporosis, fragility fractures, traumatic fractures

Multiple systems in the body – connective tissue diseases and vasculitishave musculoskeletal manifestations (example: systemic lupus erythematosus)

Prevalence of MSD

Musculoskeletal conditions can affect anyone from adolescence to old age. It is prevalent across the life course and its impact is predicted to rise gradually as the risk factors for noncommunicable diseases increase. This is particularly true for low- and middle-income settings. You can also see MSDs occurring commonly alongside other non-communicable diseases in multimorbidity health areas

Common Disorders

Some of the most common musculoskeletal disorders are (To name only a few):

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Tendonitis
  • Ligament Sprain
  • Tension Neck Syndrome
  • Thoracic Outlet Compression
  • Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
  • Epicondylitis
  • Radial Tunnel Syndrome
  • Digital Neuritis
  • DeQuervain’s Syndrome
  • Mechanical Back Syndrome
  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Ruptured or Herniated Disc

Prevention & Management

Most musculoskeletal disorders share the same risk factors such as lack of physical activity, obesity, poor nutrition, and smoking. Management generally requires specialist care and, in many cases, surgical intervention. Some MSDs can be resolved with primary care including psychological therapies, weight management, exercise, and other Pharmacological therapies.

There are specialised units for orthopaedics set up at SIMS, Nungambakkam. Speak to our staff for an appointment today!

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