April is National Occupational Therapy Month: Prevent strains and over-use injuries at work

Occupational Therapy at VMH ... April is National Occupational Therapy Month. Pictured above is Occupational Therapist Tami Gebel with Robert Timmerman of Waukon. Submitted photo.

by Tami Gebel, O.T.,
Veterans Memorial Hospital

April is National Occupational Therapy Month. Occupational therapists work in outpatient clinics to assist people in recovery from work-related injuries. Many times careless mistakes lead to injuries. Other times injuries occur due to an obscure accident or just repetition of the same movement over and over.

However an injury occurs, it often leads to pain, time off from work, a change in work duties, and inability to complete all activities (even non-work related activities). Employers do not like work-related injuries because they often result in a loss in wages, production and manpower.

The best cure for a work related injury is complete rest from the activity that caused the injury. Unfortunately, many times this is not possible because people need the financial income that their job provides. For this reason, occupational and physical therapists work with the injured person to overcome and recover from the injury so that he/she is able to return to their job requirements and reduce further risk of re-injuring the body.

“I was having so much pain in my arm that I couldn’t even hold a cup of coffee in my hand,” states Robert Timmerman, occupational therapy patient from Waukon. “After just a few weeks of coming in for occupational therapy treatments, my pain is almost completely gone. At first, I really didn’t think it would work so well, but Tami has done wonders and she is great to work with, too.”

Here are some simple techniques to remember while at work to prevent injuries.

1. Use both hands during tasks, or alternate hand usage.
2. Avoid prolonged sitting or standing positions; change positions, move and stretch.
3. Avoid prolonged pinching between the thumb and tips of fingers, especially if a lot of force is used.
4. Avoid repetitive movements with the hands and arms, such as turning your hand palm up and down.
5. Avoid constant reaching above your head.
6. When lifting heavy objects, lift using your legs and knees instead of bending at the waist.
7. Push heavy and large objects instead of pull.
8. When sitting at a computer desk, make sure feet are flat on the floor and the computer screen is eye level.
9. Do not twist at your waist, move your feet when turning around.
10. Make sure you exercise outside of work; you may feel as though you had a workout while at work, but you need to maintain strength in your whole body.

If you have any questions or want more information, contact the occupational therapists at Veterans Memorial Hospital in Waukon at 563-568-3411.

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