Low-cost workplace modifications can prevent joint pain, researchers say
A science blog on the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health website highlights the problem of soft-tissue injuries and makes various suggestions for employers. It also seeks public input about the prevention and management of joint pain in the workplace.
"Many musculoskeletal conditions can result specifically in chronic or short-term joint pain," according to the blog.
An example of joint pain is arthritis, identified as the leading cause of work disability by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An estimated $47 billion in lost earnings resulted from arthritis and other rheumatic conditions in 2007.
Arthritis is expected to become more prevalent as the workforce ages, according to the blog. The authors estimate 25 million working adults will be limited in their physical activity because of arthritis by the year 2030.
Aging is associated with loss of muscle mass and muscle function. These changes may reduce joint stability and impair normal joint motion that affect the ability to tolerate specific work postures and repetitive motion, the authors say. With a loss in muscle strength, the same level of physical effort places a greater demand on an individual.
Employers can implement interventions such as lifestyle interventions that target obesity can help prevent joint pain.
"One of the benefits of a well-designed exercise training program may be improved joint health," the blog says.
But lifestyle and wellness program interventions alone are insufficient to fully address the magnitude of joint pain among aging workers. Employers also should emphasize workplace equipment and tools that reduce forces, repetition, vibration, and awkward work postures in physically demanding workplaces, they say.
Reducing the physical demands may enable affected employees to work more productively. "In many cases, workplace modifications to achieve these affects are not costly capital investments," according to the blog. "Prevention of a single episode of joint injury is often sufficient for recovery of the cost of the intervention."
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January 7, 2013
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