5 Possible Causes of Occupational Overuse Syndrome

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Occupational Overuse Syndrome, or OOS, is one of the most common injuries sustained at the workplace. Caused by awkward movements, repetitive actions, or forceful actions, OOS may result in intense pain, dull aches, numbness, and many other dangerous symptoms. While OOS can be treated, it is easier to identify the common causes and work to avoid them in the workplace. Here are the top 5 possible causes of occupational overuse syndrome.

What is Occupational Overuse Syndrome?

Before looking at the top 5 causes of OOS, it’s important to understand what it is, how you can contract it, and how it affects you. This will help you identify ways to avoid OOS in the future.

OOS is typically caused by repetitive movements such as those at the workplace. Repeatedly lifting boxes, reaching to a top shelf, and other small movements can build up tension in your body. Over time, that tension will need a release and cause an injury to whichever part of your body has been overused. Common areas of injury include:

  • Back
  • Wrist
  • Hands
  • Knees
  • Elbows
  • Neck

These injuries may vary in severity. If you or a coworker have ever thrown out your back sneezing or picking up something small like a pen, it was likely due to the built-up stress from overusing a part of your body. OOS can be managed as well as avoided altogether. Identifying key areas that are causing stress in your body will help you avoid it.

If you do suffer from OOS, you can effectively treat most injuries with:

  • Rest
  • Switching tasks or roles at work
  • Correcting your posture
  • Physiotherapy
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Exercise and stretching
  • Yoga

While there are certain things you can do at home to help alleviate the pain of OOS, you should also consult your healthcare professional about the severity of your injury and the correct course of treatment. Once you’ve identified your pain and its cause, you can work to avoid it in the future.

5 Possible Causes of Occupational Overuse Syndrome

Occupation Overuse Syndrome can be caused by several different things. Identifying your possible causes will have to factor in your specific industry and role. However, there are some common causes that may cause OOS in many different workplaces.

1. Awkward Posture

When working, it’s important to keep proper posture. Poor posture for several hours each day and greatly multiply the effects of something. Always be sure to practice good posture no matter where you are. If you stand at a desk, consider getting a floor mat and a place to raise your foot throughout the day to alleviate stress on your hips and knees.

2. Repetitive Movements

One of the most common causes of OOS is repetitive movements or actions. For people who work an assembly line or packing station, this is especially common. Look for alternate ways to complete your task that shifts the use of one muscle to another. For instance, if you work at a packaging station, alternate which hand you use to tape the box shut.

3. Poor Work Practices

Another common cause of OOS has to do with poor work practices. Incorrectly carrying items, improperly using equipment, lifting with your back instead of your legs, etc. These are all ways you may contract OOS in the workplace. Be sure to follow proper safety procedures and speak with your supervisor if any company policies are causing you pain.

4. Improper Ergonomics

For people who sit at a desk for 8+ hours daily, it’s especially important to maintain correct posture. Keeping your body aligned in a way that limits pressure will help keep you healthy and protected. Purchasing an ergonomically correct chair, keyboard, mouse, and other common office equipment will keep you from straining your body.

5. Muscle Tension

Constant muscle use can also cause OOS. As your muscles become accustomed to being under tension, it can be difficult for them to relax afterward. Furthermore, constant strain on your muscles may cause tears and weakness. Be sure to take regular breaks to stretch and rest your muscles during the day. This will prevent them from developing problems due to overuse.

How Can We Help?

Work Health Solutions offers comprehensive healthcare solutions for your medical needs, including injury prevention. Our qualified team treats patients and employers alike and always provides top-quality service. We back our quality service with years of experience working with academics and research.

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Dr. Glen Cheng

A physician-attorney with a dedication to healthcare innovation, informatics, and digital health.

  • Currently spearheads employee health protection and promotion within the VA Pittsburgh Health Care System.
  • Trained in residency at Harvard, achieving board certification as a physician; also a licensed patent attorney with experience as FDA regulatory counsel.
  • Co-founded Acceleromics, a consulting firm providing clinical and regulatory guidance to digital health startups.

Erin Davis

 Chief Clinical Officer at Work Health Solutions, certified in Adult-Gerontology (AGNP-C) and Athletic Training (ATC).

  • Oversees clinical operations and ensures high clinical standards across the company’s national field staff.
  • Former Manager of Clinic Operations and Occupational Health Nurse Practitioner at Stanford University Occupational Health Center (SUOHC).
  • Specialized in treating occupational injuries and illnesses, and provided medical surveillance and travel medicine consults at Stanford and SLAC National Accelerator Lab.
  • Dedicated to sports and occupational injury treatment and prevention.
  • Assistant Clinical Faculty at UCSF, mentoring students in clinical rotations within the Adult Gerontology and Occupational and Environmental Health Program.
  • Holds leadership roles as Treasurer and President Elect of the California El Camino Real Association of Occupational Health Nurses (CECRAOHN), affiliated with the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN).

Dr. Robert Goldsmith

Founder and President of NBS Healthcare Group, with a focus on innovation in healthcare consulting.

  • Previous role as Executive Director for Employee Health at Novartis Services, Inc., leading health services and clinical support.
  • Instrumental in creating an integrated healthcare system at Novartis.
  • Former private practice in internal medicine in Stamford, Connecticut, and Medical Director consultant for GTE Corporation.
  • Transitioned to GE as a Global Medical Director in 2000.
  • Holds a medical degree from Albert Einstein College, an MPH from the University of Connecticut, and completed training at Greenwich Hospital and Yale-New Haven Medical Center.
  • Assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the Vagelos School of Medicine, Columbia University.
  • Serves as a team physician for high school athletes in Stamford.
  • Published works on occupational health risks, primary prevention, and exercise-induced asthma.