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Commentary: Protecting Employees from Sprains and Strains

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Most workplace injuries in the Mountain West are musculoskeletal injuries. Some of the most common of these include muscle strains, joint inflammation, back pain, tendonitis, ligament sprains, pinched nerves, carpal tunnel syndrome or rotator cuff syndrome. These are all injuries that involve the muscles and the skeleton—basically the parts of the body that make us move.

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These work-related injuries affect muscles, tendons, joints, ligaments, bones, nerves and blood vessels.  They are caused by certain work tasks that place excessive strain on our bodies over time.

You may have heard musculoskeletal injuries referred to as the following:

• Sprains and strains

• Overexertion injuries

• Soft-tissue injuries

• Repetitive strain injuries

Preventing these types of injuries starts with understanding them.

What is a sprain?

A sprain is a stretch and/or tear of a ligament, the fibrous band of connective tissue that joins the end of one bone with another. Ligaments stabilize and support the body's joints. For example, ligaments in the knee connect the upper leg with the lower leg, enabling people to walk and run.

What is strain?

A strain is a twist, pull and/or tear of a muscle and/or tendon. Tendons are fibrous cords of tissue that attach muscles to bone.

What is muscle soreness?

Sore muscles result primarily from micro-tears in the muscles through muscle overexertion.

What causes sprains and strains?
• A sprain is caused by direct or indirect trauma (a fall, a blow to the body, etc.) that knocks a joint out of position and over stretches, and, in severe cases, ruptures the supporting ligaments.

Typically, this injury occurs when an individual lands on an outstretched arm, stops or changes direction suddenly, jumps and lands on the side of the foot, or runs/walks on an uneven surface.

• Chronic strains are the result of overuse—prolonged, repetitive movement of muscles and tendons.


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