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Injuries are not reserved for high-level athletes and those participating in physical activity. Injuries can occur in any circumstance and certain occupations correlate with particular types of injuries.
From the Australian Bureau of Statistics, between July 2013 and June 2014, over 531,000 people experienced work-related injuries. Statistically, males experience more injuries than females, making up 61% of the total.
People who were classified as machine operators, trades workers and labourers experienced the highest injury rates. The most common types of injuries were sprain/strain (33%) and chronic joint or muscle conditions (21%).
A hefty 34% of injuries occurred through lifting, pushing, pulling and bending, while 9% occurred from repetitive movements.
What these particular injury types and mechanisms have in common, is that they can all be modified and manipulated by appropriate physiotherapy intervention.
Lifting, pushing, pulling and bending.
The implications of poor lifting and carrying techniques have been well documented. Most workplaces that require such tasks, will usually educate employees on safe ways to perform them. If you feel like you are developing problems due to these physical jobs, it is important to speak to your employer and see if any modifications can be made.
Physiotherapists can offer assistance for these problems in several ways. A thorough assessment can determine whether the best techniques are being used and potentially come up with new techniques to avoid further injury. Additionally, physiotherapists can provide you with specific exercises to counter the effects of bending and lifting, while also strengthening the core muscles and other important muscles of the body to reduce the likelihood of injury occurring.
These are tasks that are not necessarily strenuous in nature, but when performed continuously for a long period of time, can take a toll on the body. Once again, workplaces will normally have systems in place to reduce the chance of such injuries occurring. Taking regular breaks from the task being performed, or switching to a different task, are two ways in which these risks can be minimised.
Once again, a physiotherapist can assist through assessment of technique and posture. Alternative methods can be devised and exercises can be helpful to stretch and strengthen affected areas.
The silent killer.
It is very common knowledge that prolonged sitting has become a contributing factor towards poor health amongst Australians. While this does not specifically lead to traditional ‘workplace injuries’ it can have heavy health implications.
Firstly, sitting all day does not do any favours to our muscles and joints. Stiffness and reduced joint mobility can occur, as well as development of poor posture and pathology of the spine, anywhere from the lower back to the neck. Small changes, such as setting reminders to get up and walk or stretch can be helpful. Your physiotherapist can provide ergonomic advice, as well as giving you tips and specific exercises to combat the effects of sitting.
In a few words, a good work setup involves the following points:
- making sure that the chair being used has a good lumbar support; alternatively, a lumbar roll can be used
- pushing the chair right in and making sure that only the elbows are hanging off the desk
- always using a portable mouse if working on a laptop
- making sure that there is a 90-degree bend at the hips, knees and ankles.
Prolonged sitting contributes towards poor health amongst Australians.
Additionally, being sedentary for long periods has negative consequences for our general health, doing no favours for our cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Adding some forms of physical activity to your day, such as riding or walking to work, taking the stairs instead of the lift, using your lunch break for some physical activity or implementing a standing desk can all be useful.
Ultimately, all tasks carry some level of risk, but with the right structures in place, we can minimise the likelihood of injuries occurring. Physiotherapists are an excellent starting point if you require any advice, treatment or preventative strategies. It is often possible to arrange with a physiotherapist to visit your workplace to conduct a workplace assessment, give ergonomic advice, conduct educational seminars on manual handling and other tasks as relevant to each workplace.
Our jobs are important for our livelihood and therefore we should make sure we can perform them in the safest and most comfortable ways possible.