Musculoskeletal disorders result in more than 600,000 injuries and illnesses in the U.S. They cause 34% of lost work time, and they take one of three workers’ compensation dollars.
Musculoskeletal or orthopedic injuries can happen in any career, not just manual labor jobs. They result from a number of causes.
Many work accidents result in orthopedic injuries. You may also hurt yourself due to overuse or overexertion.
The injuries can affect all areas of your body.
Keep reading to learn about the 10 most common workplace orthopedic injuries and what you can do to prevent them.
Top 10 Most Common Orthopedic Work Injuries
What Is an Orthopedic Injury?
An orthopedic injury is anything involving the musculoskeletal system. That includes your bones, muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons.
There are several types of orthopedic injuries. Some happen due to overexertion. This means you do something that’s beyond your physical limits, such as lifting something that’s too heavy for you.
Repetitive motion injuries happen when you do the same motion repeatedly. It can cause strain or pinched nerves.
Reaction injuries are things such as falls, slips, or bending. When you suddenly react in that situation, it can result in an injury.
Risks for Orthopedic Injuries
While anyone can suffer an orthopedic injury on the job, some people are more likely to have these types of injuries. Physically demanding or dangerous jobs put you at risk for overuse and impact injuries.
As you age, you also increase your risk of injury. Decreased bone and muscle strength as you get older are often to blame.
Once you injure a certain part of the body, it may be more prone to future injury. The area is likely weaker after the initial injury, which means the injury may happen again.
1. Back Injuries
Minor back pain due to posture issues or long periods of sitting cause mild to severe discomfort. You can usually deal with it by using pain management techniques. Making ergonomic changes to your workstation can also help improve back discomfort.
Some back pain happens due to an injury or sudden motion. You might twist your back while lifting something or strain the muscles when you slip.
Overexertion or too much activity can cause back pain.
2. Carpal Tunnel
Carpal tunnel and other repetitive strain injuries cause pain in the soft tissues. They’re common in people who do the same motion with their hands as part of work. Examples include typing all day or doing repetitive work on an assembly line.
It happens when the motion pinches the median nerve in your wrist. The result is tingling, pain, weakness, and numbness in your fingers. The symptoms often worsen over time if you don’t seek treatment for the condition.
Minor symptoms may be treated by changing your activities or wearing a wrist splint. If it’s severe enough, carpal tunnel may require surgery to relieve the pressure.
While repeated motion is often the cause, you may be more likely to have carpal tunnel if you have certain health conditions. That includes diabetes, thyroid imbalance, and rheumatoid arthritis.
3. Rotator Cuff Tear
Rotator cuff tears send about 2 million people to the doctor every year. It can cause major pain and limit the movement in your shoulder.
Your rotator cuff is at risk for tears and other injuries if you use your shoulders a lot. Rotator cuff tears can happen suddenly due to an acute injury, or they can happen slowly due to repeated overuse of those muscles.
The injury typically causes pain when you try to use your shoulders or raise your arms. You may also feel stiffness in your shoulders.
Weakness in the shoulders can interfere with work and everyday activities.
The treatment for a rotator cuff injury depends on the severity. You may just need rest and anti-inflammatory pain relievers. Cortisone injections and electrical stimulation therapy are options, as is surgery in severe cases.
4. Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow doesn’t usually have to do with the sport, although tennis can be the cause. It happens when you overuse the muscles in your arm and hand rather than a sudden injury. Because of that, it’s most common to experience it in your dominant hand since it’s the one you use most often.
The condition causes inflammation, irritation, and pain in the tendons near your elbow. You’ll likely notice pain, burning, or tenderness around your elbow, particularly on the outside.
Tennis elbow tends to get worse over time. You might notice a slight pain initially that gradually gets worse. You’ll also notice the pain more when you use your forearm.
5. Shoulder Pain
Your shoulders get a lot of use, especially if your job involves lifting. You may experience pain in your shoulders over time due to repeated use. Other shoulder pain comes from a sudden injury.
You might feel pain in your shoulder continuously or only when you move it.
Bursitis and tendinitis are two possible issues. They cause inflammation in the shoulder. The tendons can also tear and cause pain.
Other causes of shoulder pain include arthritis, bone spurs, and shoulder impingement.
Taking breaks and stretching your shoulders can minimize the wear. General exercise to strengthen your shoulders may also help prevent injuries.
6. Knee Injuries
Your knee has lots of potential for injuries because it’s such a heavily used joint. The muscles and tendons can become injured during the regular course of work.
A physically demanding job can result in wear on your knees that causes pain. If your job involves kneeling, such as carpentry, the weight of your body on your knees can cause issues over time.
You may also strain or sprain your knee due to overextending or overexerting yourself. Tears in the knee are also common.
Using knee protection if your job involves kneeling can help. Choose the right type of pads for the job to get the best protection.
7. Sprains and Strains
Sprains can happen in any of your ligaments, but they’re common in your wrists and ankles. Strains affect your muscles and tendons.
They often happen if twist or turn suddenly. It causes the tissues to stretch abnormally. Sometimes the tissues tear.
Sprains are categorized into three grades based on severity. Grade 1 results in a stretched ligament, grade 2 causes a partial tear, and grade 3 is a complete tear.
Pain is the most obvious symptom of a sprain or strain. You might experience swelling, bruises, or tenderness. You may even hear a pop or tear when the injury happens.
Minor sprains often heal with rest and ice. Anti-inflammatory pain medication can also reduce the swelling and pain.
If the pain doesn’t go away quickly, it’s a good idea to have it examined by a doctor to check for a fracture. A severe tear may need more treatments to repair properly.
Broken bones often happen in falls or other injuries involving impact. They can range from minor fractures to complete breaks.
Pain, numbness, and redness are common symptoms of a broken bone. If the break is severe, you may be able to see a deformity in the limb. You may also have difficulty moving the affected limb.
Stress fractures are a little different. They happen due to overuse. Your muscles may become weaker and tired with excessive use.
Weakened and tired muscles can’t protect your bones from impact as well as normal. More of the impact transfers to the bones, which can eventually cause little fractures.
You have a higher risk of a broken bone on the job if you have weaker bones. This happens with age and with certain medical conditions, such as osteoporosis.
Being alert for slipping and falling hazards can help prevent fractures. Wear protective gear and follow safety protocols to prevent impact injuries that can cause broken bones.
9. Neck Pain
Neck injuries can happen in any type of job, including desk jobs. The vertebrae, ligaments, and muscles in the neck have less protection than the back, so they may be more susceptible to injury.
You might have a sudden injury to the neck, or the pain may develop over time due to poor posture. If your computer monitor is low and you hunch over to see it, you may start feeling pain in your neck.
Neck pain often limits your range of motion. You may not be able to turn your head to the side or move it up and down.
The problem can affect the soft tissues or the bones in the neck. In the soft tissues, the most common causes are sprains or wear and tear.
An impact injury to the neck can cause injury to the spine or nerves. Spinal injuries can be very severe and may require surgery or other interventions.
Pain from neck injuries can spread to other areas, including your arms, shoulders, and back.
Some of your joints may become dislocated due to sudden impact. That means the joint goes out of its normal position. It often happens due to an accident or sudden force.
Elbows, ankles, and hips are common places for dislocations, but they can happen in other joints, too.
Dislocation causes sudden, severe pain. You may be able to see the joint physically out of place. Swelling is also common with dislocated joints.
You also won’t be able to use the joint when it becomes dislocated.
The joint needs to be put back into place as quickly as possible. The joint may need to be immobilized after to let it heal and recover.
Once you dislocate a joint, you have a higher likelihood of dislocating it again. You may need to treat the joint more carefully to prevent future dislocations.
Treatment for an orthopedic injury depends largely on the injury and the severity. You may need to see an orthopedic doctor to get the proper treatment.
Some injuries simply need time and mild pain relief techniques. Others may need various types of therapy. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary.
Following your doctor’s orders can help the injury heal faster. Complete the at-home exercises and attend all therapy sessions and doctor’s appointments to support healing.
If your doctor tells you to stay home from work, follow the recommended time. Going back before your doctor clears you could result in you reinjuring the area. This time, it could be more severe, require more intense interventions, and take longer to heal.
When an orthopedic injury happens at work, the injury may be covered by workers’ compensation. It covers your medical costs 100% and may pay you for lost wages if you’re out for work for several days.
Many orthopedic injuries can be prevented with proper safety precautions. Always wear the safety gear and equipment that’s necessary for your job. Talk to your boss if you feel you need more safety equipment.
Watch for hazards in the workplace, such as cords or boxes that can cause tripping. Alert your boss to potential hazards that you can’t correct yourself.
Ergonomic workstations can prevent strain on your neck and back. Position your monitor so it’s at eye level with your keyboard and mouse on the same level. Sit in an adjustable chair with lumbar support.
Always remain alert on the job, especially in hazardous working conditions. You can’t prevent all accidents, but being aware of your surroundings can help you avoid slips, falls, and impact injuries.
Taking breaks can prevent overuse injuries. Get out of your seat to stretch or walk around every hour or two.
Stretch parts of your body that get tight or tense. If you type or do repetitive motions with your hands, do wrist and hand stretches during your breaks.
Handle Orthopedic Injuries
Orthopedic injuries can affect all the joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the body. They happen due to overuse, overexertion, and sudden injuries. Being aware of those injuries helps you avoid them.
If you’ve suffered an orthopedic injury at work, you’re not alone. Find a physician close to you to evaluate your injury and help with your workers’ compensation claim.