Regardless of your industry, hand and wrist injuries are among the most common work-related injuries worldwide. Whether it be from a slip that has you landing on your arm, from lifting or carrying heavy objects, or those small repeated movements that cause longstanding damage over the time, these injuries result in hundreds of hospital visits in Hong Kong every year. Not only does this mean much pain, frustration and a potentially lengthy recovery for you, but it may also mean a loss of income - or even your job.
While you may not be able to control accidental injuries, there are things you can be doing to help prevent other injuries to the wrist and hand at work - particularly those involving repetitive strains. Today, we’ll be giving you the inside scoop on what you can start doing today to keep your hands and wrists happy and healthy, while decreasing your risk of injury at work.
1. Identify Potential Repetitive Strain (Overuse) Injuries
Repetitive strain injuries account for approximately 60% of all occupational injuries in Hong Kong. These are caused by both forceful and passive movements, constrained postures and generally unfavourable working conditions. These movements result in damage to the soft tissues - like muscles and tendons - due to their repetitive nature. Common overuse injuries of the wrist include:
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis
- Intersection Syndrome
- Damage to the flexor tendons at the wrist and forearm
While the type of movement is very much industry-specific, it includes anything from lifting heavy objects to typing away at a computer at an awkward angle - no one that uses their hands and wrists as part of their job is immune. It happens because the tissues aren’t given enough time to recover before the movement is performed again, and this progressively worsens until the result is pain
. The first step to prevention is to identify and acknowledge your risks
. You may already have co-workers that have suffered certain problems, or you may know of injuries that are more prevalent among your industry. Once identified, you can start taking steps to reduce the risk of these injuries happening to you. This involves finding alternate, safe techniques that, knowing what we know about the intricate biomechanics of your hands and wrists, can get the job done comfortably while keeping you out of harm's way. This is one thing that we do very well here at Thrive Health as we believe the right techniques, knowledge and understanding are essential for long-term success and pain-free living.
2. Keep Your Muscles Strong, Flexible & Unrestricted
Every job will have different demands from your hands, wrists and arms. Injuries occur at the point where the demand required exceeds what you can safely perform, given your strength, flexibility and the movement range that your joints allow. This is where understanding the demands on your body and working to build up your strength and flexibility is essential
. If your job is leaving your hands and wrists feeling tired, heavy and weak at the end of the day, that’s a good sign that you need to work on your strength and flexibility outside of work to improve your performance. Here are a few steps we highly recommend you take:
Start each morning with a warm-up or a stretch of your hands, arms and wrists, just like you would before exercise. We’ve included arms here because of the musculature that attaches from the arms and into the wrists. Take time to stretch throughout the day, too.
Buy a couple of hand weights or resistance bands for your home. These can be used while watching television, brushing your teeth, and even speaking with your significant other. It’s the small daily efforts that can make a large difference to your outcomes - and pain levels.
Know any restrictions or limitations in your joints and musculature. This is something that we can do after assessing the strength and integrity of the joints and muscles in your upper limbs. This will help you to understand the movements that are hard for you to perform because of muscle weakness (for example), versus those that are difficult because the shape of your joints doesn’t allow for full movement. If it’s the latter, it’s usually a simple fix with an alternative technique - but you won’t know until you’re assessed!
3. Listen To Small Pains & Niggles
This is a big one. Injuries that have a gradual onset, like repetitive strains, will start as a small - and for many dismissible - niggle or pain. It is essential to emphasise here that pain is not normal
. It is our body’s way of letting us know that something isn’t quite right. Our first instinctual response to pain is to stop whatever we’re doing, right? Yet many don’t when it comes to pain at work, because they feel that they must
keep working or because others around them are performing the same actions without pain. Unfortunately, as you keep performing the same actions that have caused that niggle, the damage will progressively worsen until you realise that you need help and it’s not going to get better on its own. By that time, your injury has worsened and will require a longer recovery time - meaning you’ll be in pain (and potentially away from work) for longer. So to help prevent significant injuries at work, we urge you to listen to your body - and see us when pain or niggles to start to set in.
4. Know Your Weakness - Repeat Injuries
An earlier report from the Health & Safety Council in Hong Kong showed that 36.8% of the 2028 injured workers surveyed had suffered repeat injuries at work. The physiology behind this statistic is that when you injure a muscle or a tendon, it becomes damaged and weakened. This makes it vulnerable to both further damage and re-injury. This is why we work extensively with you to both give you alternative techniques that won’t put the same strain on your hands and wrists while you recover, as well give you a rehab plan to get you back to full functional capacity. When you know and understand the damaged and weakened structures, you’ll know what actions will be prone to causing irritation and pain. This is where speaking to us, asking every question and understanding what has happened and why
is very important. With this said…
5. Don’t Skip Your Rehab - Avoid Future Injuries
We cannot emphasise this more: please, please don’t skip your rehab
. We get it - once the pain is gone, you feel like you don’t need
to spend time to keep doing your rehab and seeing your physio, but trust us - you do. The goal of your rehab is not just to alleviate your pain - it’s to restore your strength and flexibility and also to improve on it - because your previous level of strength was still vulnerable to injury. By completing your rehab and working with us to continue to improve, you are reducing your risk of both re-injury and other future injuries, too. So please always complete your full rehab plan if you want the best results for your body.
Need Help? We’ve Got You Covered
If you’ve been experiencing discomfort in your hands and wrists, or you know you’re at risk of sustaining an injury but you’re not sure what you can do about it, we can help. We have a team of experienced and knowledgeable physiotherapists that will help you understand your risks at work, how to avoid them, and the right techniques and exercises to perform to keep you healthy and happy. We also have braces and splints available if you need them. You can book an appointment online or call us on 2522 6972.