Occupational musculoskeletal disorders (MSKDs) can significantly alter an individual’s capacity to work leading to a reduction in productivity, increased absenteeism and lowered quality of life.
The prevalence of MSKDs in the nursing profession is an important phenomenon to be analysed and discussed in detail; the socio-economic impact on a hospital or clinic can be measured in terms of inferior quality of care, loss of work days and high treatment costs.
The multifactorial aetiology of MSKDs in nurses stems from repetitive job tasks which involve physical application of force, quite often in extreme postures, especially while lifting heavy loads and repositioning patients.
Extensive periods of sitting in one posture increase spinal disc compression while standing on hard, concrete surfaces for prolonged periods of time increases the stress placed on the lower extremity, particularly the feet.
While studying the main work tasks that contribute to the development of musculoskeletal disorders in the nursing profession, Ribeiro et al observed that individual variables such as gender, age, body mass index, the presence of pathologies and regular physical exercise also had an effect on symptomatology.
For instance, a greater proportion of female nurses reported to have symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders in their ankles and feet when compared with male nurses.
There was also a relationship observed between MSKDs symptoms at the knees and body mass index; nurses with a greater body mass index were found to have more musculoskeletal complaints in the knees than nurses of standard weight.
The authors emphasised on the need to review these individual variables in the risk assessment process, while not limiting the process to working conditions only, in the formulation of successful early intervention and treatment strategies.
There’s also a need to encourage nurses to adopt comfortable working positions to allow optimal distribution of effort by various segments of the body for minimising physical fatigue and reducing the occurrence of musculoskeletal complaints.
Prominent areas of pain in nurses were found to be the lower back, shoulder and neck in a study conducted by Kermit G. Davis and Susan E. Kotowski, of the University of Cincinnati, for The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.
The authors pointed out that with the primary focus on treating low-back pain for nurses, it is essential not to neglect many of the other injuries which could potentially worsen with new procedures and devices being introduced in the work place.
A good example of this is lifting-assist equipment which has the potential to increase the incidence of shoulder injuries due to the repeated action of manually pushing the device.
Customised foot orthotics such as MASS4D® are recommended as a means of pain management in the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders affecting the lower extremity of nursing professionals; by improving gait patterns and restoring optimal movement of the lower limbs, MASS4D® foot orthotics help in reducing joint loading and re-aligning the skeletal system.
Moreover, the regular use of customised foot orthotics optimally distributes plantar pressure in the foot and helps in stabilising both the foot and ankle, decreasing the likelihood of developing any foot deformities or lower-limb conditions in the long-term while providing relief from work-related stressors.
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Repetitive plantarflexion can lead to pain and mechanical limitation in the posterior ankle joint which is known as posterior ankle impingement syndrome. This pathology commonly occurs in ballet dancers and football players.