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Working in Outsourcing with Muscle and Joint Pain

May 15, 2017 Claire Ponsaran

Working in an outsourcing job can be a hassle to your staff’s muscle and joint health. The time spent sitting and working in front of the computer can put a strain on their neck, shoulders, wrists, and lower back. Sometimes, they’ll have leg cramps from sitting too long. As their client, you can help ease their pain by checking out this list of possible muscle and joint problems that impact sourcing workers may face.

repetitive strain injury from using the computer all day

Photo: Branko Collin via Flickr under CC

Repetitive Strain Injury or RSI

Technically, repetitive strain injury is “a cumulative trauma disorder (CTD) stemming from prolonged repetitive, forceful, or awkward hand movements.” It often results to long-term damage to the muscles, tendons and nerves around the neck, shoulders, arms, wrists, and hands. RSI reduces one’s ability to perform fine motor movements, such as sewing and writing. People with RSI also find it difficult to hold an object, such as a cup or a book, for very long.

Your outsourcing staff may be at risk for developing RSI if they used a computer for more than two to four hours each day and they don’t take frequent breaks to rest and stretch their limbs. Their risk for RSI increases when they also have poor posture and they don’t exercise regularly. Doing the opposite, starting with adopting good posture while sitting, standing and walking, will greatly reduce their risks of developing RSI.

Check out the Repetitive Strain Injury page created by Clay Scott. He’s got lots of good advice for preventing or reducing the damage that RSI can cause to your staff’s muscle and joint health.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or CTS

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a form of repetitive strain injury on the wrists. A band of fibrous tissue surrounds the wrists, and the tight space between that band of tissue and the wrist bone is called the carpal tunnel. The problem is centered on the median nerve that passes through the carpal tunnel.

The median nerve passes through the carpal tunnel to receive sensations from the thumb, index, and middle fingers of the hand. Any condition that causes swelling or a change in position of the tissue within the carpal tunnel can squeeze and irritate the median nerve. Irritation of the median nerve in this manner causes tingling and numbness of the thumb, index, and the middle fingers — a condition known as “carpal tunnel syndrome.”

And so, any condition that puts a lot of pressure on the median nerve can cause CTS. Inflamed tendons in the wrist caused by repetitive strain injury can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. The same can happen to people with diabetes, arthritis, obesity, and even hypothyroidism.

If your outsourcing staff are working in an office and sitting in front of a desk all day, then be sure to remind them  to stretch and exercise their joints, including their wrists and fingers, after a few hours of using the keyboard and mouse. This can help reduce the intensity of CTS symptoms.

Take the initiative to establish ground rules around the office that promote workplace health. One of those rules should be the standard provision of ergonomic chairs with good back support and desks of medium height. Plan employee-oriented fitness activities, such as daily morning exercises or yoga sessions on weekends, that promote good posture and offer pain relief.

Some people say that taking Vitamin B6 can help ease the symptoms. When the pain is too much, your staff may seek pain relief through non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as a last resort.

Neck and Shoulder Pain

Outsourcing workers often keep their heads in the same position for hours, which can lead to stiff neck and shoulder pain. The pain can be debilitating. It can prevent them from having a good night’s sleep and force them to move slowly and keep their heads at an angle that won’t trigger nerve pain along the upper trapezius muscle.

2009 study on call center workers in Italy revealed that workers suffered neck-shoulder problems the most because they had poor desk lighting, they were exposed to elevated noise, and their chairs did not allow them to lean back and rest while sitting.

Obviously, this problem can be easily remedied by providing good lighting throughout the work area so your employees do not have to hunch over their keyboards and put their faces closer to the monitor to read what they’re typing. Another suggestion for preventing ‘phone-neck’ is to provide ergonomic furniture and updated equipment, such as headsets that fit around the head. Most importantly, give your employees the chance to take 30-second breaks every 30 minutes without repercussions.

lower back pain from inactivity and office work in outsourcing

Photo: Esther Max via Flickr under CC

Lower Back Pain

Poor posture, a badly equipped workstation, and a sedentary lifestyle are among the major reasons why outsourcing workers often suffer from lower back pain. They spend 6 to 8 hours a day, or even more, sitting at their cubicles with little time for breaks.

Many experts now believe that office workers, like your outsourcing staff, benefit more from standing up while working than sitting down. They can walk around and work their leg and thigh muscles while they’re brainstorming. In contrast, sitting all day can loosen the muscles in the lower back and around the hips and thighs.

But, standing all day has its disadvantages. One of those is swelling around the ankles and pain in the calf and soles of the feet. It’s the same problem that waitresses and sales people in department stores often encounter. The solution? Have your staff use a sit-stand approach to working at a desk, or let them take several short breaks in a day to stretch and exercise their limbs and to rest their feet interchangeably.

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