Cumulative Trauma Disorder (CTD) | The New Threat In The Workplace
Cumulative trauma disorder, or CTD, is a new threat to employees in the workplace that has developed into today’s fastest growing occupational hazard. CTDs are the strains that can potentially result from long-term repetitive motion or from working in an awkward position for long periods of time. These strains can occur in the shoulders, back, arms, or wrists. It affects the joints of the body along with the surrounding tendons and muscles. CTDs have affected workers across all industries, ranging from people who work white collar jobs in the office to people who work blue collar jobs out in the field, the factory, or in the warehouse. However, CTDs seem to be more prominent, understandably, in people who work physically strenuous jobs. In other words, employees who work on job sites where a lot of heavy lifting and operation of heavy machinery occurs have a higher risk of developing CTD related problems. Yes, today’s advancements in technology have led to the creation of some amazing machines, but these machines have also increased the possibility of a worker developing a strain due to repetitive movements while operating the machinery. Once a worker has developed CTD, it is not only extremely uncomfortable for the individual, but it also negatively affects the employee’s happiness, future employment, and the ability to live a normal life.
The good thing about CTDs is that they can be prevented with just a bit of awareness and proactive measures. You can greatly reduce you chance of getting a CTD by doing the following:
- Take the time to perform some warm up exercises before engaging in any physically strenuous work. This is the same concept as when athletes warm up before a practice or game.
- Plan ahead and think of ways you can make the job you are about to do easier. Don’t waste energy performing tasks the hard way when there is an easier alternative.
- Routinely rotate your work position. This will switch up how your muscles are being used so that you are not performing the same movements over and over.
- Always use the correct tool for the task at hand. This will help you avoid awkward movements or overexertion.
- If you get tired, take a break! This doesn’t mean take a 20 minute break. Sometimes, a simple 2-3 minutes will give your body enough time to recover so that you can continue.
- If you are aware that you have tired and overworked muscles, be sure to carefully stretch them. This will increase circulation and reduce tension.
- When needed, use anti-shock or anti-vibration gloves, wrist supports, back support, or other personal protective equipment (PPE) that can prevent CTD.
- One of the most common CTDs is back strain. Make sure you are always lifting with the proper technique; life with your legs, not your back!
- Keep your wrists in a “neutral postion” while using hand tools. Repetitively bending them up and down or sideways during your work will only increase your risk of developing a CTD.
- Be aware of the fact that your body will not react the same to conditions as your coworkers. Different people and different bodies have different tolerances, strengths, and weaknesses. Don’t ignore the messages your body is sending you simply because your coworkers seem unaffected by a particular task.
Cumulative trauma disorder is a serious problem and it is affecting more and more workers across the country every year. However, do not confuse CTD with simple muscle discomfort or fatigue. If you work in a physically demanding environment on a daily basis, it is natural to experience the normal aches and pains that come with physically demanding activities. This will be even more obvious when you are performing an activity you are not used to doing. Remember, CTDs result from awkward and repetitive movements that are not natural for the human body to make. These types of strains can lead to long-term physical issues, so it is important to take the proper preventative measures. The best way to tell the difference between normal aches and pains and CTDs is how long the discomfort lasts. If it lasts longer than a few days, then you could possibly have developed a CTD. If it gets to this point, you will want to notify your supervisor and see a doctor.
Again, the best thing about CTDs is that they are preventable. Listen to your body and learn the steps you can take to ensure your body is healthy, strong, and free of any type of cumulative trauma disorder for years to come!