Researchers to design intervention for work-related injury

03/01/04

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has awarded Temple University researchers a $1.7 million grant to determine whether intervention can prevent work-related injury from developing into a chronic disability.

The scientists, Ann Barr, PhD, Mary Barbe, Ph.D., and Brian Clark, Ph.D., from the department of physical therapy in Temple's College of Health Professions, and Fayez Safadi, Ph.D., from the department of anatomy and cell biology in Temple's School of Medicine, will examine the effects of ergonomic and pharmaceutical interventions in the secondary prevention of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) in a rat model.

Repetitive tasks that are common during the work day, such as reaching, lifting and typing, can lead to injury and disability, or WMSDs. In the United States, WMSDs, including carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis, cost employers $20 billion per year in direct worker's compensation expenses and additional costs in lost productivity.

Although preventing the damage from happening in the first place, or primary intervention, would be ideal, typically patients don't report WMSDs to their doctors until they are experiencing symptoms and damage already has been done. Secondary intervention occurs after a disorder has developed and is designed to stop the condition from becoming chronic. According to principal investigator Ann Barr, PT, Ph.D., associate professor of physical therapy, "Because there are still so many questions about the underlying conditions, there's uncertainty about the best type of treatment. As a result, sufferers are often prescribed a package of treatments, including physical therapy, ergonomics and medication, and we're not sure which treatment is actually working.

"We're proposing a combination of NSAIDs, which are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and aspirin; and ergonomics, which involves adjustment of the workspace to ease pressure and force on the body. While such treatments are common, we're not certain that they actually heal tissue. We need to tease out the effectiveness of each treatment alone. This will help us to refine treatment and save people from further pain and disability," said Barr.

This five-year study builds on a body of work the researchers have been conducting since 1998. Most recently, in pre-clinical studies, the group discovered that repetitive tasks do in fact cause nerve, bone and muscle damage, an issue disputed by experts. Specifically, they found that work-related carpal tunnel syndrome develops through mechanisms that include injury, inflammation, fibrosis and subsequent nerve compression.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

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