Work Strain

As I think I may have said before, most of the physical stresses and strains that lead to damage and pain are not dramatic but routine. I don’t apologise for repeating myself, you see some things are worth hearing more than once, and this is one of the most valuable things most of us could learn (I rank it right up there with next weeks winning Lottery numbers.)

The science of ergonomics looks in excruciating detail at how we design products or tasks to minimise strain and discomfort, and that’s because those clever ergonomists realise how damaging even minor repeated strains can be.

People often fail to realise how small a strain I mean, so let’s look at a real example, my newly defined work related injury of M.M.S. These three initials, which in time will grip the hearts of computer users with fear, stand for “Migrating Mouse Syndrome.”

The computer mouse is that innocent looking little plastic box with a ball underneath sitting beside most computers. Usually they have a thin wire coming out of one end like a tail, hence the name.

These little devices have to be operated with precision to control the little arrow on the screen, with which we tell the computer what to do (at least that’s how it’s supposed to work.) The fine control required means we need a firm base from which to move the hand, so often the arm and shoulder become overly tense, forming a relatively rigid support for the hand.

Now as the mouse becomes bored with its’ little mat, it has a tendency to wander off across the desk in search of a more stimulating environment. The computer operator now ends up having to use considerable effort to maintain the required degree of rigidity in the outstretched arm. All of which goes completely unnoticed as the operator focuses all their attention on the screen, trying to complete the job in hand.

Some weeks, months or years later, the poor victim presents to their osteopath with pain anywhere from their head to their fingers, and what looks and feels like an egg implanted in the muscle that runs across the top of the shoulder.

Now we can hardly refer to operating a computer mouse as hard labour, they are generally as diminutive and lightweight as their name suggests. Yet even this apparently small source of strain can over time be the cause of considerable pain and suffering.

As you think about your routine work tasks, how often do you perform them with more strain than is necessary, either because you have been unaware of the strain until now, or because you just do things a slightly quicker but less efficient way in order to save one or two of those precious seconds?

By the way, keep the secret of M.M.S. under your hat, you see I plan to launch my patented range of “Mouse Corrals”, specially designed to keep the little critters on their mats, so ridding the world of the menace of M.M.S., so don’t breathe a word to anyone!