Common Musculoskeletal Disorders in the Workplace
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Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are a leading cause of work-related injuries that result in workers’ compensation claims. These disorders can cause pain, discomfort, and reduced functionality, making them a significant concern in the workplace.
What are musculoskeletal disorders? They’re a group of conditions that affect the muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, and other parts of the musculoskeletal system. And they can affect workers across a wide range of jobs and industries.
Types of musculoskeletal disorders
There are many conditions that can be considered musculoskeletal disorders. Some examples commonly seen in workplaces include:
- Back pain – This is one of the most prevalent types of musculoskeletal disorders. Heavy lifting and prolonged sitting are common risk factors. Workers in jobs that require repetitive lifting or bending, such as construction or nursing, are particularly susceptible to back pain.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome – This is a painful condition that affects the wrist and hand. It is often associated with jobs that require repetitive hand and wrist movements, such as typing or assembly line work. Workers with carpal tunnel syndrome may experience numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hand.
- Tendonitis – This refers to inflammation of tendons, which are the connective tissues that attach muscles to bones. It commonly affects the shoulder, elbow, and wrist. Workers in jobs that involve repetitive overhead motions, such as painting or plumbing, are at a higher risk.
- Rotator cuff injuries – The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that stabilize the shoulder joint. Injuries to the rotator cuff can result from lifting heavy objects or performing tasks that involve repeated arm movements. Rotator cuff injuries can lead to pain, limited range of motion, and muscle weakness.
- Osteoarthritis – This is a degenerative joint disease that can occur in weight-bearing joints such as the knees and hips. Activities in certain types of jobs can lead to the development of osteoarthritis by putting stress on joints and causing cartilage to break down. This is seen in jobs that require repetitive movements, heavy lifting or carrying, or awkward postures.
- Muscle strains – These occur when muscles are stretched or torn. They can be the result of sudden movements or overexertion. Jobs that require heavy lifting or repetitive motions put workers at risk.
- Herniated discs – A herniated disc happens when the soft inner core of a disc in the back leaks out through the tough outer layer. This can cause intense back or neck pain, and, in severe cases, may lead to nerve compression. Workers in jobs that involve heavy lifting and frequent bending, such as construction or healthcare, are susceptible to this condition.
- Trigger finger – Known medically as stenosing tenosynovitis, this is a condition in which one of the fingers gets stuck in a bent position and then pops straight. It often affects workers who engage in repetitive gripping motions, such as using hand tools.
- Epicondylitis – Also known as tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow, this condition affects the tendons of the forearm muscles that attach to the elbow. It can result from overuse of the forearm muscles, as seen in jobs involving repetitive gripping or twisting motions.
- Neck pain – This condition is often related to poor ergonomics in the workplace. Prolonged sitting in front of a computer, uncomfortable chairs that promote poor posture, and overuse of handheld devices are all significant factors in the development of neck pain.
How are musculoskeletal disorders treated?
There are many treatments used for these conditions. A healthcare provider can examine a worker’s injury and develop a treatment plan. Depending on the type and severity of the injury, this may involve:
- Physical therapy – Specific exercises and stretches can help restore strength, flexibility, and mobility to injured or affected muscles and joints, reducing pain, and promoting healing in the injured area.
- Medications – Medications for musculoskeletal disorders may include prescription or over-the-counter drugs such as NSAIDs for pain and inflammation management, pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, and, in some cases, muscle relaxants.
- Injections – These include corticosteroids to reduce inflammation or hyaluronic acid for joint lubrication. These injections can provide targeted relief for pain and discomfort.
- Bracing or splinting – This provides external support to affected body parts. It’s used to stabilize joints, manage pain, and facilitate healing in musculoskeletal disorders, helping prevent further damage.
- Surgery – This may be considered in cases involving severe musculoskeletal disorders, such as joint replacement or the repair of damaged structures. It’s a more invasive option and is usually used when conservative treatments aren’t effective.
What should I do if I suffer a musculoskeletal disorder at the workplace?
Never ignore symptoms of a musculoskeletal disorder – these can include pain, swelling, stiffness, weakness, and reduced range of motion. If you think you suffered a workplace injury:
- Notify your supervisor – You must make this notification within 30 days to protect your right to workers’ compensation benefits. Make this notification in writing so that you have a record of it.
- Get medical attention – Do this as soon as possible. A healthcare provider can diagnose your injury and begin treatment. A provider can also fill out Form C-4, the Doctor’s Initial Report.
- File a claim for benefits – Fill out Form C-3, the Employee Claim form. Under the law, you have two years from the date of your injury to fill out this form, but it’s best to complete it sooner rather than later.
- Follow your treatment plan – Follow all instructions from your healthcare provider. Failing to do so can put your ability to receive benefits at risk.
- Talk to a lawyer – An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can guide you through the claims process.
How can an attorney help with my claim involving a musculoskeletal disorder?
A workers’ compensation lawyer can:
- help you complete and file the paperwork to initiate your workers’ compensation claim and ensure all deadlines and requirements are met;
- gather medical records, witness statements, and any other evidence needed to support your claim;
- communicate and negotiate with the workers’ compensation insurance company on your behalf, and;
- file an appeal if your claim is denied and represent you at hearings with the Worker’s Compensation Board.
If you suffered a musculoskeletal disorder at the workplace, the experienced attorneys at Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano LLP are here to help. We take your claim seriously right from the start and will fight to ensure you get the benefits you deserve.
Learn more about your legal rights. Contact us to schedule a free case evaluation. We can review the details of your situation and discuss your potential legal options.
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