Ergonomic injures are caused by prolonged exposure to ergonomic risk factors. This includes repetitive movements which place unbalanced strain on the body. However, if ergonomic injuries are ignored, they are far more likely to cause serious problems. Studies have even shown that in the workplace, 33% of injuries are due to ergonomic factors.
Here, we explain how ergonomic injuries can be prevented, the different types of ergonomic injuries and what can cause them.
Click on a link to jump to that section:
Read how an ergonomic injury in the workplace may be caused.
Read examples of the different types of ergonomic injuries and what factors can cause them.
Find out which individuals are most at risk of developing ergonomic injuries.
Read our tips on preventing ergonomic injuries.
What is an ergonomic injury?
To be able to prevent ergonomic injuries, it’s important to understand what they are and how to recognise them. Ergonomic injuries are often caused by issues that may seem rather trivial and harmless. For example, poor office ergonomics can mean something as simple as sitting in an uncomfortable chair for too long, which can cause serious back problems. Having to strain to work from a monitor that is too high up for you can be another example of an ergonomic risk factor. Something as innocuous as a lack of breaks in between jobs can also have a detrimental effect. All of this means you’re not giving your body an adequate chance to stretch, leading to often serious and debilitating ergonomic injuries.
What are the different types of ergonomic injuries?
Various different forms of ergonomic injuries can be picked up in the workplace. Some common injuries include:
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome can arise as a result of nerve problems in the wrist. It’s a condition that can cause problems for the whole hand, such as weakness and pain. Caused by overexertion, it can have a huge impact on the daily lives of those who suffer from it. Research shows that 3% of women and 2% of men suffer from this condition. Almost half of these people have also changed jobs within the first 30 months of their diagnosis. An average of 27 sick days is taken to help manage the condition, which can impact workplace productivity.
Are you suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome? Read our guide to the best workstations for carpal tunnel syndrome here.
Lower back injuries
Lower back pain is the most common type of ergonomic injury, and studies show that around 80% of workers will suffer from this type of workplace injury in their lifetime. It can result in extreme discomfort and is typically caused by cheap office chairs that keep your posture static. This increases stress in the back, shoulders, arms and legs, leading to pain in the lower back.
Tendinitis is the term given to the inflammation of your tendons (which is the tissue in your body that is responsible for attaching your muscles to your bones). This condition is more common in those over the age of 40 due to their lower elasticity and can be caused by the repeated lifting of heavy objects.
Tennis elbow is a condition that typically plagues the elbow of the more dominant arm, resulting in pain and soreness. It’s more likely to occur in people with musculoskeletal conditions and those who play tennis or other activities that put repeated stress on the arm. However, it’s also common in workers who use the same movements every day. For example, it is common in office workers who spend a lot of time typing, which places repeated pressure on the forearms, fingers and wrists.
Repetitive strain injury
Repetitive strain injury can be caused by consistently sitting in an uncomfortable, unnatural position, as well as common mistakes such as straining. It refers to the pain felt in muscles, nerves, and tendons due to repetitive movements and overuse injury. Whilst it is widely associated with wrist and hand injuries caused by typing, it can also mean a range of painful or uncomfortable conditions of the muscles, tendons, nerves and other soft tissues. Most cases of repetitive strain injuries have their bases in the nerves in the upper body, from the nerves in the neck and shoulders down into the wrist.
Back and neck pain
These are often the most common complaints from office workers. This can be due to disc degeneration, or because of the excess pressure being suffered by the spine. Back and neck pain can also be due to a slumped position causing nerve constriction, as the spine and other bones change their position due to the long-term effects of bad posture.
Which individuals are most at risk of developing ergonomic injuries?
Apart from those who work in offices or a similar work environment, there is a wider range of individuals who are also at risk of ergonomic injuries:
People who have a sedentary lifestyle
A sedentary lifestyle is a term used to describe people who exercise very little and spend most of their days sitting or lying down. These people are most at risk of suffering from ergonomic injuries such as lower back pain as their spine is constantly constricted, with limited opportunity for it to be stretched out.
People who work from home on a laptop
When working at home on a laptop, there are two ergonomic injuries that you are prone to. The first is lower back pain, as you are likely to spend the majority of each day sitting down. The second is carpal tunnel syndrome, as many hours each day are spent typing. Eventually, this can lead to excessive strain and movement on the wrists and fingertips.
People who have existing health problems (arthritis or conditions which affect posture and bone strength)
People who fall into this category are also considered to be high risk in terms of suffering from ergonomic type injuries. The lack of bone strength also means it can take longer to recover from all of the above types of injury. Conditions such as arthritis also slow down the ability to heal and can exaggerate the joint pain caused by CTS or tennis elbow.
How can ergonomic injuries be prevented?
To prevent ergonomic injuries, you must have the right office setup. We recommend considering the following factors to help prevent injuries:
Using a monitor arm
By working with a monitor arm, you’re already preventing the development of an ergonomic injury. The arms allow you to adjust the height of the monitor so that it’s level with your eyes, meaning you’re not straining or leaning over to see it.
Reach plus monitor arm
- 5 Year Warranty
- Fingertip movement
- Integral cable management
- Quick release VESA (Supports VESA 75mm & 100mm)
- Reach Plus supports combined monitor weights between 6kg – 15kg
- Supplied with top mounting universal C clamp fixing
- 180 Degree lockout option as standard
- Folds flat into 80mm of space
- Available in three colours; Silver, Black and White
The correct chair and desk height
A sit-stand work desk allows you to switch between standing up and sitting down throughout the day. Changing your position regularly can help prevent problems such as stiff muscles, back and neck injury and can reduce the discomfort and sitting for long periods.
Active electric sit stand workstation
- Instantly converts any desk into a sit-stand workstation
- 700mm x 400mm solid working surface
- Quick and easy assembly
- Comes complete with a single and double supports
- Power assisted height adjustment
- Single option supports monitor weights up to 7kg and the double option supports monitor weights up to 14kg
- VESA Complaint 75mm & 100mm
- Travel range is 450mm ±5mm
- Travel time is approx. 11 seconds
- The product life cycle is 10,000+
To prevent ergonomic injuries such as lower back pain, we advise using an adjustable task chair. Ergonomic task chairs use your body weight to automatically adapt to the most ergonomic position, but you can also recline the chair and reposition the armrests accordingly. Read the correct posture for office working here.
The correct keyboard and mouse setup
The correct keyboard and mouse setup is integral to preventing conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow. It will minimise the amount of strain placed on your wrist and fingers while also reducing the hunching of your back.