Understanding and Managing Occupational Overuse Syndrome (OOS)

Cumulative Trauma Disorder (CTD), also known as Occupational Overuse Syndrome, is a condition of the muscles in the wrist, forearm, arm and neck that is caused by their overuse (or misuse) at work. This guide unpacks the symptoms, management techniques, and preventative measures.

May 2023

Table of contents

What is the Occupational Overuse Syndrome?

The Occupational Overuse Syndrome, commonly known as Cumulative Trauma Disorder (CTD), arises from the extended misuse or overuse of specific muscles during work activities.

Understanding Cumulative Trauma Disorder (CTD)

CTD primarily affects the muscles of the wrist, forearm, arm, and neck. Our upper limb muscles aren't designed to maintain fixed positions or repeat the same tasks incessantly. When these muscles operate against their natural design, they release waste by-products, such as acid, due to energy production without adequate oxygen. It's the accumulation of these by-products in certain regions that triggers pain, muscle spasm, tenderness, and an urge to halt the aggravating activity.

Identifying the Symptoms

Common signs include:

  • A general ache or burning sensation along the arm, neck, or back of the shoulder.
  • Pain that intensifies progressively.
  • Discomfort following a specific motion.
  • Non-specific pain in the wrist or elbow, with varying intensity.
  • Symptoms not always correlating to a particular activity at the moment.

Treatment and Management

Addressing CTD requires a thorough analysis of one's daily activities and techniques. The following recommendations can aid in management and recovery:

  1. Evaluate and Modify Activities: Scrutinise the tasks you do and how you perform them. Adapt your environment to leverage the natural strength of your muscles.
  2. Holistic Healing Approaches: Aid muscle recovery with rest, massage, stretching, and targeted endurance-strengthening exercises.
  3. Home Exercise Program: A tailored set of exercises can be invaluable. Ensuring overall fitness can also enhance muscle functionality.
  4. Workplace Adjustments: Continue working but consider modifying certain tasks to alleviate strain.

The Importance of Efficient Posture at Work

Maintaining a good posture can be key in managing and preventing CTD:

  • Screen aligned at 90 degrees with an eye movement range of 15 degrees.
  • Adequate lighting.
  • Chin retracted.
  • Shoulders at ease.
  • Elbows bent at 90 degrees.
  • Relaxed wrists on the keyboard.
  • Knees positioned at 90 degrees.
  • Feet resting flat on the ground.
Correct posture, distances and angles at a desk

Recovery and Commitment

The intensity of CTD can vary and often changes over time. Both work and home life may necessitate some adjustments. Adopting a proactive attitude is crucial, as full recovery demands dedication and patience. Rest assured, you can overcome cumulative trauma disorder, and we're here to guide you every step of the way.

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