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Musculoskeletal complaints on the rise among office workers: study

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Photo: diego_cervo/iStockphoto

Olympia, WA – Workers are spending more time on computers and, as a result, the percentage of office workers with musculoskeletal issues is increasing, according to an ergonomics evaluation study conducted by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries.

Twenty support services employees, representing bill processing, claims initiation and imaging departments, participated in at least one part of the four-phase study analyzing the effects of typical work activities and postures on musculoskeletal health. Employees were evaluated via survey, observation, computer task sampling and electromyography.

All participants reported experiencing at least one musculoskeletal issue in the previous 12 months, and the percentage of those reporting pain in a certain body part increased in comparison to a similar study conducted in 2009.

Other highlights from the study:

  • 53 percent of workers reported hand/wrist pain, up from 11 percent in 2009 – an increase of nearly 382 percent.
  • 79 percent reported shoulder pain, up from 37 percent in 2009.
  • 32 percent reported elbow/forearm pain, up from 16 percent in 2009.
  • 29 percent reported missing work due to lower back issues.
  • 25 percent missed work due to shoulder issues.

“Further ergonomic improvements may need to go beyond the current office ergonomics guidelines. For example: Ergonomics awareness training, RSIGuard usage, proper employee task assignments in order to balance the workload, and better hand/arm supports and alternative keyboard and mouse use,” researchers said in the report.

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