Share Nurse Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) GuideBy Team Altus | Published Dec 02, 2019 | 10 MIN READ Nurse Musculoskeletal Disorder GuideDefinition of Musculoskeletal Disorder Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are a non-communicable disease that has become a common workplace health problem. MSD is a condition that can affect your muscles, tendons, bones, ligaments, blood vessels and joints and any structure that support your limbs, neck and back. Common MSDs are:Carpal tunnel syndromeTendonitisTension neck syndromeOsteoarthritisRotator cuff tendinitisRheumatoid arthritis (RA)FibromyalgiaMSDs are best described as discomfort experienced by the individual on their musculoskeletal and neurovascular systems and their motor and sensory nerves. This is a result of prolonged exposure to daily living activities that are frequent and repetitive.Everyday activities that can be affected by MSDs:MobilityEatingCommunicationsPersonal hygieneDressingToileting Definition of Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSDs)WMSD is discomfort experienced by the individual on their musculoskeletal and neurovascular systems and their motor and sensory nerves resulted from prolonged exposure to work tasks. These motions are likely to be frequent and repetitive.The level of discomfort from MSDs varies. The discomfort can interfere with everyday life and tasks can often become difficult, painful and cannot be physically not be performed. Early treatment can retract or ease symptoms.MSDs and WMSDs are commonly referred to as: Sprains or strains Repetitive motion injury Repetitive stress injury Cumulative trauma disorders Overuse injuryOccupational health injuryWhat are MSDs symptoms?Recurrent joint or muscle pain Muscle cramping Inflammation of joint or muscle Movement limitation Swelling Dull aches Stiff jointsFor nurses, symptoms of MSDs can interfere with everyday work tasks like walking, lifting or typing. Nurse movement may be limited, and they can have trouble carrying out work tasks. How to diagnose MSDsIf you have symptoms of a musculoskeletal disorder, it’s best to contact your doctor for an appointment right away. The sooner you receive an accurate diagnosis, the sooner you’ll receive a treatment plan.Your doctor will most likely perform a physical exam on you. They will look for pain, swelling, redness, and muscle weakness. Your reflexes will be tested as they will show any signs of nerve damage. Your health history will also be considered.Depending on your symptoms and the physical exam results, you may be ordered to undergo image testing such as an x-ray or MRI scan and blood tests.How to treat MSDsIt’s encouraged to see your doctor for the right treatment plan. Your treatment plan can vary based on the type of MDS you have and the severity of it.If you’re experiencing occasional pain, your doctor may suggest:Moderate exerciseOver-the-counter medications such as ibuprofenIf your symptoms are more severe, your doctor may suggest:Prescribed medicationPhysical therapyOccupation therapyOr a mixture of any of the aboveIn this case, the doctor is trying to reduce inflammation and pain. Therapists can not only help you manage and mitigate your pain or discomfort, but they can help you maintain strength and teach you how to adjust to the disorder when performing everyday activities or work tasks.It’s important to remember even after your diagnosis and treatment plan, there is no clear end to the disorder. MDS treatments may be a marathon and not a sprint.Nurses and WMSDsWMSDs are considered as the leading factor for workplace absenteeism among nurses. Not only can this occupational health issue affect absenteeism, but they may result in lower quality of life, task constraints or the want or need to switch jobs.A study reported 73.2% of nursing professionals have experienced pain or discomfort in the past year.A survey developed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports WMSDs as the most common disorder in nurses. More than half (54%) of the nurses surveyed reported WMSDs in their lower back. 41% of nurses reported WMSDs in their neck, followed by the shoulder at 34% and hand and wrist at 26%. What causes Nurse WMSDs?Nurse demographic characteristics and the hospitals’ organizational factors both influence the risk of WMSDs.Demographic characteristics:AgeActivity levelFamily historyLifestyleHospitals’ organizational factors:Work designWork tasksEducationSuppliesEquipmentInformationPeer supportNurse work tasks likely to cause WMSDsNursing as an occupation is demanding on the body. In fact, nurses are more likely to suffer a back injury during their shift compared to a construction worker.These nurse work tasks are likely to cause wear and tear on their musculoskeletal system: Typing and using a mouse Entering data into the EMR system Pushing or pulling heavy equipment Bending down to equipmentBending while sharing information to patients Reaching for equipment Utilizing heavy equipment such as bar code scanners Sitting in the same position at a desk every day Lifting patientsMost vulnerable parts of the body to MSDsShoulderLower and upper backNeckKnees and lower legsHand/wristsForearmsHow can nurses prevent WMSDs?A nurse’s risk of developing WMSDs increases with age and longevity at work. Muscles, joints, and bones overtime naturally deteriorate and work tasks are usually always going to be repetitive. Nurses can prevent MSDs by taking the following steps necessary to care of their body:Develop healthy habitsStretching exercisesStrengthening exercisesPractice posture during working tasks Keep repetitive motions to a minimumSafely perform tasks such as lifting or pushing a heavy objectUtilize education resources surrounding nurse musculoskeletal disorders and ergonomics Eat a balanced dietKeep a positive attitude Engage in social activitiesEngage in physical activity Limit alcohol and tobacco As always, your doctor is a great resource for more information on how to personally maintain a healthy lifestyle and to decrease your risk of musculoskeletal disorders.Nurse exercises to avoid WMSDsAerobic exercisesLow to moderate intensity workouts such as walking, running, biking, cross-country skiing. Aerobic exercise should bring you breathlessness, fatigue and/or sweating. Strengthening exercisesPromote endurance, power and muscle growth by participating in actives that work your muscles against resistance. Strengthening exercises include lifting weights, working with resistance bands, climbing stairs or hills, pushups and more. Everyday activities like heavy gardening count too! Flexibility exercises Nurses can improve their posture, reduce aches and discomfort and lower their risk of MSDs by improving their flexibility. Flexibility exercises improve the ability of joints to perform the physical activity needed for daily tasks. Yoga, pilates and stretching are great ways to stay supple.5 stretches geared towards nurse WMSDs hotspots: Shoulder rollsWhile in an upright standing or sitting position, relax your shoulders. Then roll them up, back and down. After a minute, reverse your direction. Repeat a few times.Side angle bendWhile standing with your feet shoulder-distance apart, stretch your arms high above your head. Grab your left wrist and tilt your body to the right. Keep your spine long and arms stretched out above your head. Meet back in the middle, switch to your right write and tilt to the left for 20 seconds. Neck and shoulder release While sitting up straight, relax your shoulders and back muscles. Slowly drop your left ear to your left shoulder and feel the stretch on the side of your next. Hold for 30 seconds. Meet back in the middle, centering your body and switch to the right side of your ear to your right shoulder. Cat cowGet on your both hands and knees. Use a mat or blanket to cushion your knees if needed. Position your wrists underneath your should and your knees underneath your hips. Take a deep inhale and bring your chest up and allow your spine to sink towards the ground. Slowly exhale and arch your back up towards the sky. Repeat 5 or so times. Take your time and relax your neck.Wrist/hand stretchWhile sitting our standing, extend your arm in front of you, palm up. With your other hand, bend your wrist, pointing the hand towards the ground. Hold for 20 seconds and switch wrists 3 times. How WMSDs effect hospitals as a businessWMSDs can negatively affect hospitals as a business. this includes but not limited to: Early exit from the labor market Increasing compensation costsIncreasing health costsA decrease in nurse productivityA decrease in nurse efficiencyLower quality of life in nursesLower service quality Jeopardize the safety of patients How hospital administrators can avoid WMSDsHospitals administrators can minimize the risk and hazards of WMSDs through work design by implementing: Ergonomic solutionsEducational programsInstructing how to act in response to WMSDsStress mitigation planEncourage proper physical activity and stretching exercisesEducational ProgramsEmpower nurses by educating them on nurse musculoskeletal disorder prevention and treatment options. Encourage nurses to seek support from other nurses, family members, friends or support groups. If diagnosed, an emotional support group is an important tool when coping with the disorder. Prevention ProgramsCreate a strategic plan to prevent nurse musculoskeletal disorders. This occupational health issue isn’t going away and needs to continuously be worked at. Use equipment and that have been proven to reduce the risk of MSDsDevices to transfer patientsDevices to lift patientsErgonomic workstation on wheels Key ergonomic features to look for in equipmentHeight-adjustment capabilities A monitor that can swivel and tilt Accessories that can be accessed with minimal bendingAn ambidextrous mouse stationA sturdy workstation with no wobbleA Complete Guide: Key Ergonomic Features in Technology WorkstationsWant a deeper dive on ergonomics and their impact on nurses? Download our free eBook today!