Due to the nature of their jobs, surgeons experience a very high rate of musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs. Unfortunately, surgeons’ MSDs often go unreported and they are unsure how to manage these issues.
We all experience pain or injuries in our muscles or joints at some point in our lives. But what if the pain you’re experiencing is related to your job?
The Toll of Musculoskeletal Disorders on Surgeons
Poor posture, ill-fitting equipment, and confined spaces all increase the risk surgeons have of developing musculoskeletal disorders.
Surgeons spend a lot of time stranding as they typically perform multiple surgeries each day, each lasting two hours on average. And, with the large medical team and equipment required space is often very limited in the operating room. This limits surgeons from moving openly in the environment, frequently forcing them to contort themselves into awkward positions. Combined with the long periods of standing, this can lead to ongoing pain in the lower back, shoulders, and neck.
The frequent pain surgeons experience has a huge impact not only on the economy. Overall, work-related MSDs cost the Canadian economy approximately $22 billion per year! This includes direct costs, such as medical treatment, prescription drugs, or therapy, and indirect costs, including decreased job performance, absenteeism, or even early retirement.
Different Disciplines, Different Equipment, Different Concerns
Though the majority of surgeons experience pain in similar areas of the body, causes may vary. Surgeons who perform laparoscopy procedures, for example, use long-handled tools. If the operating table is too high, they might bring their shoulders up to their ears or further from the body to accommodate. Not only is this uncomfortable, it can also cause musculoskeletal disorders in the long run.
Ophthalmologists, on the other hand, must use large, mounted microscopes which are often incorrectly positioned. To accommodate, they have to hyperextend their necks. Furthermore, they also sit for their procedures; this presents an additional MSD risk if their chair isn’t adjusted to the proper height.
Part of the issue is the lack of education surrounding ergonomics among surgeons. Almost 90 per cent of surgeons reported being unaware of ergonomic guidelines; 45 per cent stated they did not have any formal education in ergonomics.
So, what can we do to save those who are saving us?
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