Distal Upper Extremities Study
RMCOEH and the University of Wisconsin conduct this NIOSH-funded study that followed a group of over 1200 workers in three states and 15 industries to discern the ergonomic, medical, and psychosocial factors that cause or place workers at increased risk for upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders. Specific problems and disorders being studied include carpal tunnel syndrome, lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow), medial epicondylitis (golfer's elbow), as well as other problems extending from the neck to the fingertips.
For the study, Ergonomics & Safety faculty analyze work activities to measure ergonomic exposures at the study sites. Medical staff and research assistants visited study participants monthly to assess musculoskeletal symptoms through a standardized questionnaire and examination. By analyzing the ergonomic exposure data and medical information collected in monthly site visits, the research team builds mathematical models for predicting upper extremity disorders. From these models, the research team and occupational safety and health professionals can develop interventions that will enable workers to avoid the onset of symptoms.
The research team has initiated smaller studies within the overall study to assess the efficacy of preventive interventions. This intervention process involves identifying high-risk jobs, designing, and implementing feasible, low-cost interventions and following-up these sub-groups to determine if injury rates are reduced. Data analyses are ongoing with exciting results so far in over 30 publications. Study results are helping employers and employees nationwide to develop preventive interventions to reduce injury rates.
Low Back Pain Study
Researchers at the Universities of Utah (RMCOEH), Wisconsin, and Texas conduct this NIOSH-funded study of the ergonomic, medical, and psychosocial factors that cause or place workers at increased risk for low back pain. Study participants came from a variety of companies in four states. For the study, ergonomics and safety faculty analyze work activities to measure ergonomic exposures at the study sites. Medical staff and research assistants visited study participants monthly to assess back pain symptoms through a standardized questionnaire and examination.
By gathering and analyzing this information, the research team is building mathematical models for predicting low back pain disorders and associated risk factors. As the team continues to analyze data, we will be able to see if our predictions are correct and develop interventions to avoid the onset of back symptoms. Data analyses are ongoing with exciting results so far in over 10 publications. Study results are helping employers and employees nationwide to develop preventive interventions to reduce injury rates.
Home Health Care Study
Although the industry of home health care workers is expanding rapidly, few studies to date have been completed in order to find out if they are at an increased risk for work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Therefore, this study's aim was to examine the exposure risk of work-related musculoskeletal disorders for home health care nurses and aides.
Subjects for the study were recruited from Utah, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Canada from 24 different home health care agencies. The prevalence rates for low back, neck, and shoulder pain were all calculated for both nurses and aides. Also, variables such as age, gender, body mass index, tobacco, work-related, and personal psychosocial stressors were included in the data collection.
Initial analysis of the data gathered indicates that home health care workers are at a significantly increased risk for work-related musculoskeletal disorders of the neck, shoulder, and low back. There is also an indication that aides are at a generally higher risk compared to nurses. Further data analyses are ongoing and will hopefully provide additional insight into the risk factors for this specialized area of the work force.