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Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) – Risk factors

Inherent risks

Providing assistance with transfer, positioning, mobilizing, and supporting patients in ambulation is a routine part of the daily patient care. This assistance can be further complicated when sicker patients are more physically dependent or are tethered by tubes and other devices to fixed outlets and utilities. Additionally, organizational factors such as staffing, workload, design of the care environment, and lack of mechanical lift assist devices can also have a huge impact on MSDs among healthcare personnel.

Repetitive trauma

MSDs (such as back injuries) related to patient handling are rarely caused by a single, well-defined incident. The root cause is often the specific incident coupled with years of repetitive micro-trauma. The repetitive nature of tasks performed by caregivers increases the potential for MSDs – particularly awkward postures, bending and lifting excessive loads. Because of the slow and progressive onset, internal weakening and damage, the condition may be ignored until the symptoms become severe and lead to a disabling injury.

Obesity

In 2012, CDC declared that more than one third (37.5 percent) of the adult population in the U.S. are obese, posing significant lifting hazards for caregivers and prompting new tools and equipment to ensure safe patient handling. Obesity of the caregiver and an aging caregiver workforce also contributes to the risk of injury.

None of these factors operates alone – typically it is a combination of factors that lead to injury.