According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the healthcare sector created one in seven new jobs in the United States in 2018 alone and is the fastest-growing sector of the U.S. economy, employing over 346,000 jobs. However, despite its ever-increasing demand, the welfare of health care workers has been neglected when it comes to workplace injuries. Healthcare workers face a wide range of hazards on the job, including biological chemical, physical, ergonomic hazards, psychosocial, fire and explosion; and electrical hazards.
Although worker safety and protection guidelines have been implemented to prevent hazards from happening, healthcare workers continue to experience injuries and illnesses in the workplace.
There have been some cases reported from non-lethal occupational injury and illnesses like musculoskeletal disorders with healthcare workers.
While studies about work-related musculoskeletal disorders across the health workforce, such as podiatry are still limited, basic understanding and reducing risks helps. This article discusses the musculoskeletal disorders in the podiatry sector and how to reduce its prevalence.
What is a Musculoskeletal Disorder?
Musculoskeletal disorders are injuries or pain in the human musculoskeletal system, including the tendons, ligaments, joints, muscles, nerves, and structures that support limbs, neck, and back.
It can affect many different parts of the body including upper and lower back, neck, shoulders, and extremities. Musculoskeletal disorders, includes back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, tension neck syndrome, and hand-arm vibration syndrome.
Studies as to the prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders like low back pain on specific occupational groups, such as podiatry have revealed an increasing number of awareness causes that lead to an above-average incidence.
What is Podiatry?
Podiatry is a branch of medicine devoted to the study, diagnosis, and medical and surgical treatment of disorders of the foot, ankle, and lower extremity, and a podiatrist is the doctor, physician, and surgeon who treats the podiatric cases.
Recent studies have identified that these are predominantly associated with poor postures assumed while working by a podiatrist. Some suggestions of possible solutions have been made, to try to improve podiatrist’s postures while performing treatments.
The research also revealed that before podiatrists working in both domiciliary and clinical settings under both public and privately employed practitioners, use of posture supporting equipment such as ergonomic kit bags, stools, patient leg supports, and others was irregular and uninformed. Currently, it is suggested that podiatrists should try out to make use of more posture assisting equipment while treating patients.
While there are benefits to the use of the equipment, the introduction of this into working practices would depend on the individual podiatrist choice as to the individual environment, patient’s condition and treatments.
Below is the recommended posture assisting equipment:
Most patients found the kneeling stool to be very comfortable. The kneeling stool can be adjusted as to height requirement for better leg support to allow the two pieces of equipment to interact correctly.
Currently, the kneeling mat has the dimensions of 37.5 cm in width, 28 cm in height and a depth of 1 cm., however, some suggestions to make it larger is best suitable. Moreover, another consideration may also be given to the development of a purpose-built kneeling mat made of thicker material. Increasing the height of the knee may result in a more “neutral” posture of the ankle, which may enhance the patient’s comfort.
The patient’s limb support offers great benefits to the podiatrist, as it reduces the amount of lifting of the patients’ leg required. The limb support provides more comfortable and stable footrest support. Designs with rounded surfaces to the limb support are beneficial that minimizes any effects of patient lower limb contact with this equipment.
Conclusively, there are significant benefits to using the posture equipment, in terms of postural correction and comfort for the podiatrists. However, there are some variants and some subjects (minority) felt less comfortable using the equipment, even when they demonstrated improved, more upright postures. Overall, it would depend on the individual podiatrist choice.
Musculoskeletal disorders develop due to the poor postural working position of podiatrists. A podiatrist can reduce the risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders by using different postural equipment like kneeling stool, kneeling mat, and limb support.
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