WEAR and TEAR injuries, also referred to within the medical and legal professional industries as repetitive strain injuries, cumulative trauma disorders, or “occupational exposure” injuries; are a category of activity-related soft-tissue injuries that encompass tendonitis, forearm myalgia, and nerve entrapment syndromes, among a multitude of other related physical conditions. The area affected by WEAR and TEAR injuries may be localized to solely the upper extremities, may include both the neck and upper back, or may affect both the lower back and extremities as well.
WEAR and TEAR injuries present a significant concern resulting from work-related activity, which has resulted in hefty societal and employer expenses through workers’ compensation claims. Performing biomechanically challenging and overtly challenging physical activities, organization of work associated with related tasks, and workplace environment psychosocial stressors are the leading causes of work-induced WEAR and TEAR injuries. These broad range of causal factors have lead several work and health industry researchers to use the term “work-related musculoskeletal disorders” when discussing WEAR and TEAR injuries.
Repetitive tasks at work over an extended period of time have been heavily linked to a high occurrence of WEAR and TEAR injuries. Factory assembly workers, employees who use keyboards, and administrative or computer workers are just a few examples of some occupations that are at risk of developing a WEAR and TEAR injury, due to do the inherent repeated actions that they all involve on a daily basis. The prevalence of WEAR and TEAR conditions is particularly elevated if these tasks are performed in excess of two hours per day and in environments in which the workers are unable to take frequent breaks to rest the tendons and muscles associated with performing those activities.
Virtually any occupation that involves repeated motions or activity over prolonged periods throughout the typical workday are at risk for developing a WEAR and TEAR injury. Some positions, such as office or assembly line personnel, are particularly at risk for these conditions. Some of the following professions are also at an elevated risk of suffering from WEAR and TEAR related health conditions at some point in their respective careers:
- Agricultural Food Gatherers: These individuals are constantly bending down and kneeling in order to reach vegetables. Repetitively contorting the body into these positions without adequate rest can lead to tendonitis and other related physical conditions that can inhibit their ability to work.
- Supermarket Clerks: These workers repetitively scan items at grocery store checkout lines. This repeated motion can lead to overuse injuries in the arm and hand muscles that could result in either carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis.
- Data Entry Administrative Personnel and Computer Programmers: Office workers that spend prolonged segments of their day seated using computer equipment are at an elevated risk of developing WEAR and TEAR conditions due to lack of proper lumbar support and overuse of the hand and wrist muscles. Additionally, staring at a computer screen for hours on end can lead to impaired vision.
- Warehouse Employees: These employees are constantly bending and lifting heavy objects that can lead to herniated discs, osteoarthritis, and other serious WEAR and TEAR injuries that can either present themselves gradually over the course of several years or in a single, identifiable accident leading to acute trauma.
- Deli Workers: The repetitive daily motion of operating the slicing machines in a deli can result in shoulder and arm issues, including rotator cuff problems, tendonitis, and bursitis.
- Assembly Line Technicians: These individuals are continually using their hands in repetitive movements necessitating fine motor skills and control. The nature of the work environment may not be conducive to taking frequent breaks to rest the overused muscles, which can collectively lead to WEAR and TEAR
- Machinists: Workers in machine shops are often tasked with lifting heavy objects, repeatedly stooping and bending, and constantly using their hands and upper extremities – all of which can lead to the progression of WEAR and TEAR symptoms if left unaddressed.
- Sewing Machine Operators: These employees use their fingers and hands to complete repeated motions that can cause strain without adequate rest, resulting in pain and discomfort initially and possibly carpal tunnel if left untreated.
- Builders and Manual Construction Laborers: These positions necessitate continual and repetitive physical motion throughout the workday – oftentimes involving the lifting of heavy objects in unnatural physical positions. This can lead to a wide range of WEAR and TEAR injuries over years of exposure. Additionally, workers that operate equipment that vibrates excessively, such as jackhammers and floor polishers, may also be at an increased risk of developing repetitive use injuries
- Movers: Movers are repeatedly tasked with bending and lifting movements throughout the workday with little or no rest between periods of extreme physical exertion. The cumulative effect of which can be tendonitis, bursitis, and back issues such as herniated disks.
- Plumbers: In order to reach low-laying pipes and spouts, plumbers are constantly stooping over and bending down as part of performing their work tasks, which can lead to back and spine issues if proper rest and recovery protocols are not implemented on a regular basis
- Electricians: Electricians are constantly tasked with climbing up and down ladders and overextending their arms overhead. This can lead to WEAR and TEAR injuries affecting the rotator cuff, knees, and arms after years of work
Workers who would otherwise be productive and valuable assets to their employers may have no other alternative than to stop working due to the debilitating effects of WEAR and TEAR injuries. If you have to stop working or find yourself unable to comfortably perform daily routine tasks, you should seek appropriate medical attention immediately.
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