Back School of Atlanta is proud to introduce our NEW ergonomics
newsletter. Designed to assist you in this fast changing field, the
monthly features will provide the latest information from journals,
websites, research, ergonomics products and more. Please help us meet
needs by clicking here and e-mailing your comments or ergonomics
What's HOT in Ergonomics
Beware of the 'Blackberry Thumb'
New repetitive stress injury caused by typing with thumbs on hand-held devices
Posted June 15, 2008
By Serena Gordon Sunday, June 15 (HealthDay News)
It's rare these days to see a teenager without a cell phone in hand,
texting for hours at a time, seemingly without health consequences. But,
when older folks attempts to spend the day e-mailing, instant messaging
and surfing the Web on a handheld device, repetitive stress injuries --
such as "Blackberry thumb" -- are much more likely to occur.
Dubbed "Blackberry thumb" because of the popularity of that particular
model of wireless personal digital assistant (PDA), this repetitive
stress injury occurs because these devices rely almost solely on the use
of your thumbs for typing, instead of all your fingers.
"Blackberries and other PDAs can cause tendonitis from working in such
a small space with the thumbs," explained Kristen Crowe, a certified
hand therapist with Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich. "The problem
is that people are doing the same activity for long periods of time that
the body just wasn't meant to do. Teens seem to do OK with it. It's
around age 40 or 50 the 'itises', [such as tendonitis], start to crop
Margot Miller, president of the American Physical Therapy
Association's Occupational Health Special Interest Group, added:
"Because the keyboard of the PDA is so small, and because the thumb,
which is the least dexterous part of the hand, is overtaxed, the risk of
injury just skyrockets."
Symptoms of "Blackberry thumb" include pain and numbness in the thumbs and joints of the hand.
"...first suggestion is to take a break from the device for just a
little while. If it's painful, switch your activity until you feel
rested. Don't try to work through pain thinking it will go away. Take a
vacation if you can." It was also recommended that icing be done to the
injured area and doing strengthening exercises once the pain subsides.
Ask your physician or physical or occupational therapist to show you
what to do.
"Just use common sense. Be smart with your use -- shorten answers and
just use the devices when you need to. And, if you feel discomfort, stop
using it and get in to see a physician," he said.
Topics from the Journals and Websites
In a on June 19th article in Occupational Hazards by Laura Walter
reported that the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor had a
hearing to discuss the under reporting of workplace injuries. In
summary it was stated that an estimated 33 to 69% of all nonfatal
injuries go unreported. Part of the issue stems from flawed data
collections resources so a comprehensive reporting system to be
The BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) countered that their survey in
2007 accurately captured information from the OSHA logs. To improve any
short comings in the survey process, BLS has discussed a joint project
to be done with NIOSH.
A former OSHA record keeper Bob Whitmore stated that he felt that
OSHA's system was not reliable and inaccurate. The problem was
purportedly due to lack of enforcement of OSHA rules for reporting
It was proposed by Robert McLellan M.D. the immediate past president
of ACOEM that OSHA standards should be updated and more medical reviews
should be done during audits.
Attorney Baruch Fellner representing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
stated that he felt that the problem is not widespread and that
employers have been making real efforts to make accurate reports.
The Government Corner
If you have forgotten the General Duty clause, it reads:
This means that the employee also has a part in the safety process. They should comply by doing the following:
- Each employer --
- shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place
of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or
are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees;
- shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.
- Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and
health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant
to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct.
As ergonomists we should also encourage and support the employee's
component of self responsibility and participation. For more info: www.osha.gov.
- Read the OSHA Poster at the jobsite.
- Comply with all applicable OSHA standards.
- Follow all lawful employer safety and health rules
and regulations, and wear or use prescribed protective equipment while
- Report hazardous conditions to the supervisor
- Report any job-related injury or illness to the employer, and seek treatment promptly.
- Exercise rights under the Act in a responsible manner.
In the June 2008 issue of Physical Therapy Vol 88 #6 703-711 Research
by L. Andersen et al. was done to determine which exercises would be
best for women with chronic neck muscle pain. The report indicated that
lateral raise and upright row may be suitable alternatives to shrugs
because lighter weights could be used thus reducing the stress on the
neck, back, hip or knee muscles. This also reduced the grip strength
needed to do the exercise. (5 kg vs. 24 kg.)
The significance for this is that Ergo break exercises holding light
weights and doing lateral raises or upright rowing may be beneficial yet
safe adjunct to workers current routines.
Did you know... About Anti-fatigue Mats?
Redfern, M.S. and Cham, R. (2000) published in the American Industrial
Hygiene Association Journal 61: 700-708, did a research project where
they found that fatigue became significant in healthy subjects after
standing for a minimum of 3 hrs. The 3 hr mark is where the fatigue data
became measurable though discomfort could certainly come sooner.
Properties of Anti-fatigue mats are related to: stiffness,
responsiveness, resilience, balance stability, shock absorption and
bottoming out thickness Redfem indicated that an optimal range of
between .6 -.9 MPa (megapascals are a unit of stress or pressure or
Ergo Websites, Ergo Products, gadgets and doodads
Check out this link for a user friendly lifting guideline calculator.
The PT Chair
Specifically Designed for the Aging Workforce. This therapeutic chair can be customized to any size or shape worker. Click here for more information.
This newsletter produced in association with ERGOCATION, LLC.
VOLUME I, ISSUE 1|
In this issue:
• What's HOT in Ergonomics
• Topics from the Journals and Websites
• The Government Corner
• Ergo Science
• Did you know...
• Ergo Websites, Ergo Products, gadgets and doodads
Robert Niklewicz, PT, DHSc, CIE, CEAS
Ronald W. Porter, PT, CEAS
Director, Back School of Atlanta