Nurses at a risk of repetitive strain injuries

Nursing is a difficult profession that requires a lot of physical effort. Thanks to long shifts and repetitive work with patients, it can put a huge strain on nurses' bodies. As a result, nurses are at risk of repetitive strain injuries (RSI).

RSIs, or overuse injuries, are associated with repetitive tasks, forceful exertions, vibrations, mechanical compression and sustained or awkward positions. It can affect any movable part of the human body and often comes with these general symptoms:

  • Tenderness or pain in the affected area
  • A throbbing or pulsating sensation in the affected area
  • Tingling, particularly in the hand or arm
  • A loss of sensation
  • A loss of strength

Other symptoms are possible but vary based on which body part is affected. Back injuries are common among nurses and could be the result of an RSI, but other areas of the body such as wrists, arms, legs and feet could also be impacted based on the demands of the job.

Causes of an RSI

As its name implies, overuse or repetitive use of a particular body part or muscle can cause an RSI to develop. It's why many workers with desk jobs develop carpel tunnel syndrome. Poor posture can also have an impact on an RSI.

There are other causes that are more likely to affect nurses than other professionals, such as holding the same posture for prolonged periods, forceful activities, carrying heavy loads and even psychological stress, which has been shown to worsen an RSI.

Preventing an RSI

Preventing an RSI is unfortunately easier said than done for nurses. The best way to minimize risk is to stop or reduce the intensity of an activity, and a hospital isn't exactly a flexible environment for this type of prevention.

Nevertheless, nurses can try to prevent an RSI by taking breaks from a straining activity whenever possible and practicing healthy behaviors such as regular exercise, a healthy diet and avoiding smoking, which reduces blood flow.

Treating an RSI

Because the causes and symptoms of an RSI vary, the treatment depends on the injury. Some RSIs can be treated with medication or applying heat and cold, whereas others may require splints, physical therapy or in some extreme cases surgery. If significant treatment is required, nurses can receive compensation for time lost at work and medical bills as a result of a workplace-related RSI.

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