Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)
Wrist injuries and corresponding pain are common work-related musculoskeletal disorders that can have detrimental consequences. Repetitive hand movements completed on the job is often a key culprit, however, improper positioning of the wrists, forearm and shoulder can also be a factor. Keyboarding, use of a mouse and extended periods of sitting at a computer in one position can lead to symptoms like wrist and forearm pain, weakness, numbness or tingling in the fingers and in some cases, development of cysts or nodules around the wrist joint and tendons.
Injuries to the wrist are particularly troublesome as we heavily require use of our hands throughout the work day. Barr, Barbe and Clark (2004) reported that work-related musculoskeletal disorders of the wrist and hand cause the longest absences from work and as such, are associated with greater losses in productivity and wages than injuries in other body areas. This research was also supported by a more recent study, which found that lost productivity costs related to hand and wrist injuries was roughly $411 million dollars per year and this was the highest among any other injury type studied (de Putter, Selles, Polinder et al., 2012). There are some strategies that can be used to prevent and address wrist pain, but it is essential to keep in mind that as with any other potential for injury at work, the worker, work station and job demands must all be considered. Some great strategies to address wrist pain at work include:
- Take regular breaks to stretch and allow your wrists to rest. If needed, use a timer on your computer to tell you when it is time to take a break. There are several free timers you can download and use such as Focus Booster (available for download at https://www.focusboosterapp.com/download) or Orzeszek Timer (available for download at http://www.orzeszek.org/dev/timer/)
- Alter your job demands between typing, using the phone, filing or other duties that reduce strain on the wrist.
- Ensure you are positioned so that your wrists remain in a neutral position during typing. This may require adjusting your keyboard, mouse or chair.
Many other great solutions to address wrist pain at work can be recommended by an Occupational Therapist, with solutions ranging from low to high cost. For more information, check out Entwistle Power’s free Office Ergonomic E-Book or contact an Occupational Therapist to help meet the ergonomic needs of your organization.
Barr, A., Barbe, M. & Clark, B. (2004). Work-related musculoskeletal disorders of the hand and wrist: epidemiology, pathophysiology and sensorimotor changes. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. Oct 2004, 34 (10), 610-627.
de Putter, C., Selles, R., Polinder, S., Panneman, M., Hovius, S. & van Beeck, E. (2012). Economic impact of hand and wrist injuries: health-care costs and productivity costs in a population-based study. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2012, 94:e56 (1-7).