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Work related upper limb disorders

Work-related neck and upper limb disorders (WRULDs) are the most common occupational injury in Europe. WRULDs are a collective term for a range of disorders of the hand, wrist, arm, shoulder and neck. WRULDs occur when the tendons, muscles, ligaments or nerves are irritated, overused or damaged by repetitive movements done at work. Symptoms can include pain, swelling and difficulty in moving.

Common examples of WRULDs are:

  • Tendonitis and tenosynovitis
  • Muscle sprains or strains
  • epicondylitis (tennis or golfer’s elbow)
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Dupuytren’s contracture
  • Bursitis (knee, elbow or hand)

What causes WRULDs

WRULDs are caused by repeated movements of the fingers, hands or arms carried out for a long time and/or in an awkward position. Anything from typing to cleaning can cause a WRULDs.

They usually develop gradually, the cumulative effect of many small applications of force, repeated over an extended period.

Some common causes are:

  • Working at a badly designed work station that has not been adjusted for you;
  • Using equipment that is too heavy;
  • Doing a task that demands you grip something or apply pressure for a long time;
  • Doing the same task for a long time without a break.
  • Using equipment that is the wrong size;
  • Using the wrong technique for a job;
  • Using vibrating equipment;
  • Doing repetitive movements too fast or with too much force;
  • Working in a cold, draughty environment;

How to prevent RSI

You need to take responsibility in ensuring you are in a good position when you are at your work station. Good posture is essential, especially if you are in the same position for long periods. Make sure you change positon every 30-40 minutes and try and avoid repetition. You also need to ensure that you are using the all equipment correctly to avoid unnecessary strains. If there is anything that you feel is causing stress on your body you need to report it.

Top Tips:

  • Ensure your work station is set up correctly;
  • Ensure your equipment is the right size, height and weight;
  • You should be trained to use the equipment you’re using;
  • your work environment should not too cold or draughty;
  • your work schedule should allow you to take regular breaks;
  • there should be variety in the tasks you are required to do.

What to do if you think you have a WRULD

Report the injury to your manager and occupational health team and see if you can have an ergonomics assessment. This assessment can help identify changes to your position and equipment that may help reduce the strain

Consult a physiotherapist as they will be able to give you advice on what has happened and ways to reduce the symptoms. There is growing evidence that local strengthening exercises and stretches for the specific muscle groups involved in the WRULD complaints are effective in resolving the issue.

At Wimbledon Physiotherapy clinic we also run a free workshop, every 3 weeks advising our clients on the good posture and the best work station set up.