Musculoskeletal conditions are disorders or injuries that affect the bones, muscles, joints, tendons, cartilage, nerves, and spinal disks. Often, these conditions are characterised by persistent pain, stiffness, and limited mobility and function. These issues can be caused by direct blows to the bones, muscles, or joints or as a result of autoimmune conditions. However, there are also disorders that are caused by repeated wear and tear of the components of the musculoskeletal system due to one’s working conditions.
It’s estimated that more than 1.71 billion people around the world have musculoskeletal conditions. This group of conditions is the leading contributor to disability worldwide, and on its own, lower back pain is at the top of the list of leading causes of disability in more than 160 countries. To reduce your chances of experiencing the most common musculoskeletal disorders as you grow older and build your career, you need to know exactly what it is that you’re trying to avoid. Here are some of the most common musculoskeletal disorders and how you can avoid them:
Back Injury and Back Pain
Back pain is one of the most common causes of medical visits, and it’s estimated that the condition becomes chronic for 5 to 10 per cent of those who suffer from it. This condition can be caused by muscle or ligament strain due to repeated heavy lifting or awkward movements, but it can also be caused by a ruptured disk. Depending on the severity of the condition, the treatment for back pain can range from taking pain medications and attending physiotherapy sessions to sealing off nerves and undergoing orthopaedic surgery.
With the help of your employer or manager, it’s possible to reduce your risk for back pain even if you have a physically demanding job. This can be done by investing in ergonomic furniture and tools for repeatedly lifting and moving heavy objects. It’s also an option to ask for adjustments to your work schedule to reduce the body strain caused by physical labour. You may also want to start doing exercises that can help promote better mobility and flexibility.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
CTS is a condition that’s characterised by weakness as well as tingling or numbness in the fingers and hands. The condition is brought about by pressure on the median nerve, which is the nerve that provides sensation to the palm side of one’s hand and fingers. If this nerve is frequently irritated or triggered, then you are likely to experience symptoms of CTS. In the US, between 300,000 to 500,000 orthopaedic surgeries are done annually to correct this particular condition.
Working with vibrating tools or equipment that requires prolonged flexing of the wrist, especially in cold environments, can increase your risk of experiencing CTS. If possible, take frequent short breaks when doing so, stretch your arms, and relax your grip. If you use a mouse when you work, investing in a model that you can hold without much effort will help you avoid wrist pain in the long run.
Arthritis and Osteoarthritis
Arthritis is a term that refers to joint pain or joint disease, and there are more than a hundred conditions that exhibit this particular symptom. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, and it affects around 528 million people globally. While family history plays a role in one’s risk of developing arthritis, there are still factors that you can control or address to reduce the possibility of suffering from this condition later on.
In particular, people who work in mining, agriculture, and construction are more likely to experience joint pain or disease. Often, the people employed in these industries are required to lift heavy loads, work long hours, use tools that produce a lot of vibration, or assume unnatural postures while doing their jobs.
Again, it’s possible to reduce their risk for arthritis by using ergonomically designed tools and workspaces, organising their schedules so that they can rest now and then, and introducing company-sponsored programs that promote physical activity and improve weight management. Detecting and treating arthritis early on can also help the people who suffer from this condition to control the progression of the disease and retain their productivity and independence.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes symptoms such as musculoskeletal pain, general fatigue, cognitive disturbances, sleepiness, and tenderness. It is prevalent in 2 to 4 per cent of the population, and the condition can make it difficult for the people who have it to carry out their daily activities, including many types of jobs. Difficult to understand in the past, fibromyalgia is now effectively managed with the help of medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes.
Much still needs to be done to understand the cause of fibromyalgia, but the onset of particular infections or traumatic experiences can trigger the development of the condition or worsen its symptoms. Chronic stress, which has long-term effects on the body, has also been linked to hormonal changes that contribute to its symptoms.
While fibromyalgia cannot be prevented entirely, it’s possible to manage its symptoms through adopting healthy lifestyle changes that improve physical health and sleep quality. It also helps to reduce one’s level of mental and emotional stress. This, in turn, can help you maintain your health and well-being despite this painful and long-term condition.
Prevention is always better than cure, but there are still musculoskeletal conditions that one simply cannot avoid. Regardless, it’s possible for the people who suffer from these conditions to live a full and relatively pain-free life. This can be done through early intervention, following your doctor’s recommendations, sticking to proven safety practices in the workplace, and investing in tools that reduce body strain.
Also, remember that how you conduct your everyday activities will eventually play a big role in the health of your musculoskeletal system in the coming years. Be mindful of how you use your body today—your future self will thank you for it.