Work Related Upper Limb Disorders: Who Is At Risk?

Work Related Upper Limb Disorders: Who Is At Risk?

There has been much ‘misinformation’ written historically about work related upper limb disorders. Those identified as being at risk of these upper limb disorders were often classified as being those in manual jobs or people who worked in factories. The most cited examples were labourers who had to handle the large tools used within various industries, who then developed Vibration White Finger, more recently called Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome.

The concept of manual workers being very much at risk from work related upper limb disorders is obviously a genuine concern, but the attention that has been focussed on this section of the population has led others to ignore the risks that they too may face from work related upper limb disorders.

Professionals At Risk

Anyone who uses a PC on a regular basis is at risk, but professional sports players also need to be aware of the risk of upper limb disorders. Anyone who spends a long time handwriting reports to be written up also needs to be mindful of the risk of work related upper limb disorders. Even the usually genteel work of a librarian can result in the ‘librarian’s shoulder’. Small business owners, who can often have a tendency to do a variety of roles including lifting, moving and packing items can also find that they are at risk. Those who used to spend hours on the telephone all day also suffered, which is why call centres now use headsets and microphones so there is no risk of people cradling the phone between their shoulder and head for long periods. So there are lots of occupations where WRULDS are a risk. In fact, there are very few jobs or professions where there is very low risk or no risk of work related upper limb disorders.

But in order to make sure that you take all necessary steps to ensure that you are not at risk from WRULDs, it is important to understand fully what can cause these disorders to develop.

Causes Of WRULDs

There are three main conduits that can lead to a work related disorder developing. However, sometimes they can be combined, or sometimes a disorder can develop from just one of these three.

First of all there may be some kind of force involved (this is a common cause of WRULDs, though not the only one). It also does not need to be a strong force. It can be the force of hitting keys on a keyboard, or the force of hitting a golf ball if you play professionally.

Next comes the very common factor of the frequency and the length of time you spend doing an activity. If you work at a keyboard for 10 minutes per day, then the risk of developing a work related upper limb disorder from PC use is minimal. On the other hand if you spend 2 or 3 hours or more sat at a keyboard, then your risk rises. In other words, the longer you spend doing any one activity, then the more likely you will be to develop a WRULD.

Position and Posture:

Position and posture combine to form the most common factor that can lead to WRULDs developing. It is very easy to become absorbed in work, especially if there is a deadline looming or you are keeping abreast of the latest developments in the economy or stock exchange etc. But the more absorbed you become in the work related activity, or the more stressed you become, it is easy to forget about posture and position and sit in a way that ‘feels’ comfortable but may actually be placing enormous strain on your upper body.

In conclusion therefore, whether you are a librarian, a stockbroker or a factory worker, you at risk of a work related upper limb disorder developing and you need to ensure that all activities at work are carried out in a manner which minimises this risk and ensures your health is safeguarded.