Pain is an unfortunate reality in all of its forms, especially in our aging and tireless workforce. Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD’s) affect 7% or our populations in and result in 14% of visits to physicians. One third of these WMSD’s can be attributed to overexertion or repetitive motion injuries. Many of these injuries respond with focused RICE regimen (rest, ice, compression, and elevation of the affected injured extremity). However, if pain persists despite conservative measures, you should not delay a more detailed examination by your physician. Recalcitrant pain can be a sign of an underlying worse pathology such as muscle, tendon, or ligament rupture. Sometimes work habits, techniques, tools, and/or work environments may need to be modified to prevent further injury and facilitate your recovery.
Diagnostic workup would begin with a thorough physical exam and understanding of the individual’s mechanism of injury and normal work routine. Frequently, this exam and a plain film x-ray is all that is necessary to determine the extent of the injury. Fortunately, MRI is readily available when x-rays are not definitive and can even guide the length and type of treatment. Treatment for most WMSD’s begin with a short course of anti-inflammatory medication, RICE regimen, modification of work habits/environment and possibly physical therapy. Ignoring your joint pain that doesn’t respond to normal pain relief methods can lead to a more difficult to treat injury. Moreover, you may be overlooking simple changes to your work routine or workplace that can be made to prevent re-injury. Prevention and early treatment remain the mainstay for successful management of WMSD’s.