Repetitive Motion Injuries

I have a good friend who just got out of college as an engineer, Just a few months into his new job here in Bellingham he started to get severe pain in his wrists. Turns out he was well on his way to developing carpal tunnel syndrome.  Hours and days of typing at a computer had started to take it's toll, luckily for him his condition didn't require surgery. An ergonomic keyboard, some wrist braces, and a lighter workload on his wrists seemed to help a lot. Repetitive motion disorders like carpal tunnel are not limited to office jobs. I got to thinking about how repetitive the work of a carpet cleaner is. Yes, there is the stress on the body that is created from loading and unloading heavy equipment, but the real kicker is the hours spent actually cleaning the carpet.  When using a vacuum, a steam cleaning wand, or even a carpet rake the same movement is used.  Back and forth countless times, extending your right arm, bending over slightly, and pulling it back in. The vacuum and rake are not too bad, but a metal carpet cleaning wand can get hard really fast.

For me my shoulder is what started to hurt. Only my right shoulder, the one a use to pull the wand with. At first I didn't think anything of it, not until the pain got worse and didn't go away for months.  Although I am in more of a management position now and rarely personally clean a carpet if I don't go light on my right shoulder it will start to hurt by the end of the day.

To prevent my shoulder from getting worse and to prevent repetitive motion injuries with my employees there are a few things that can be done. Taking a quick break every now and then on larger jobs allows the body to cope much better,  stretching and relaxation exercises help, having tools that are adjusted correctly to you is a huge one as well as ergonomic tools, and especially with carpet cleaning, practice becoming ambidextrous. Switching the use of the equipment to my other hand not only gives my right side a break, but builds the muscles on my left side so  I am more balanced.

Repetitive motion injuries are no joke, no matter what profession you are in, stop and think about your daily activities and make changes now before it starts to hurt, not later.


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