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Prevention, education essential to avoid CTDs

Posted online

by Stan Brown

for the Business Journal

Workers who use their hands to perform the same function for hours at a time may develop flexortendinitis, or carpal tunnel syndrome painful, cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs) that can lead to long-term work restrictions or disability.

Symptoms of flexortendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome include tingling or numbness, which usually begins at night; weakness in grasp; a burning sensation; and pain or general discomfort in the wrist and hand.

It's important for anyone experiencing these symptoms to get help immediately before the problem escalates. At work, that can mean taking rest breaks and doing stretching exercises, modifying tasks, correcting poor work posture and using ergonomically designed tools or materials.

Medically, these CTDs are treated in a variety of ways that may include wrist splints, anti-inflammatory medication, exercise, electrical stimulation, ultrasound, biofeedback, vitamins, acupuncture and surgery.

Look at the work, the worker and the workplace and focus on what the worker can safely continue to do. The main treatment is education.

The worksite may be perfect, but the employee isn't working properly or vice versa. More likely the worksite or worker's tools aren't perfect, and the worker compounds the problem by not working properly.

Although medical doctors, chiropractors and physical and occupational therapists may sometimes disagree on the appropriate method of treatment for a particular injury, all of them agree that proper education is essential in the prevention of injuries.

Tips for an ergonomic computer workstation.

The ideal computer workstation is one that provides the greatest comfort and safety for its user.

The key to achieving comfort is by arranging the workstation to fit your body position to the workstation, rather than bending and twisting to fit you, the worker, to the workstation.

The goal is to make sure that your body is supported in a relaxed, natural position when working on the computer. Workers may use this checklist to check their body position and workstation set-up.

1. Is your chair height adjusted so your feet rest firmly on the floor or a foot rest?

2. Are you sitting properly in your chair? Scoot your hips back in the seat and sit up straight.

3. Is the backrest of the chair adjusted so that you have proper support?

4. Is your monitor height positioned so that the top of the screen is approximately level with your eyes?

5. Is your monitor positioned in front of you to avoid twisting the neck or body while sitting at the computer?

6. Is your screen located so as to minimize glare and avoid reflections from overhead light, windows and other light sources?

7. Is your screen clean?

8. Do you adjust the contrast and brightness controls on your visual display terminal? Maximum contrast and minimum brightness produce the least eye strain.

9. If you work with reference materials, are they placed on a copy stand at eye level to reduce repetitive neck movement and eye strain?

10. If you use the phone and write simultaneously, is the phone used on the opposite ear of the hand with which you write?

(Stan Brown is a physical therapist with Heartland Physical Therapy in Springfield.)

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