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A workplace injury could happen suddenly — a trip on the stairs, a falling object — but the most common ailments develop over time, the result of seemingly innocuous daily tasks.

According to the National Safety Council, every seven seconds a worker in the U.S. is injured on the job, and the No. 1 cause is overexertion, accounting for 33.5% of incidents.

Classified as musculoskeletal disorders, these injuries can manifest from something as simple as hunching over the keyboard or constant typing.

Musculoskeletal disorders affect movement and body parts including the muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, discs and blood vessels.

Common resulting conditions include carpal tunnel syndrome, tension neck syndrome, digital neuritis, degenerative disc disease and mechanical back syndrome.

While repetitive motions and hours-long phone calls may be unavoidable in your line of work, there are simple solutions and exercises for reducing your risk of injury.

“If sitting at a desk all day is causing frequent fatigue and discomfort, this may be an opportunity to improve your posture,” says Katie McCabe, occupational therapist for Mayo Clinic Health System. “While we often find ourselves sitting in a forward flexed or bent position throughout the day at our desk, driving or with home activities, we can make the choice to sit in a more effective and less demanding position to benefit our health.”

In addition to taking regular breaks to walk around, stretch and take your eyes off the computer screen, McCabe has several tips for maintaining musculoskeletal health, centered around proper office ergonomics and posture.

  • Select a chair that suits your height and allows your elbows to be bent at 90 degrees when using your keyboard and mouse. Use your chair’s backrest and keep feet flat on the floor or footrest so your knees and hips are at the same level.
  • Minimize your need to reach by placing your mouse on the same surface level as your keyboard, and keep your wrists straight with upper arms next to the body and hands resting at or below your elbow level.
  • Rather than cradling the phone between your neck and shoulder while writing or typing, utilize speakerphone or a headset.
  • Position your monitor directly in front of you, with the top of the screen at or below eye level and aligned with the keyboard. If you use bifocals, lower the monitor another one to two inches.

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Emily Pyrek can be reached at emily.pyrek@lee.net.

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General assignment reporter

Emily Pyrek covers health, human interest stories and anything involving dogs for the La Crosse Tribune. She is always interested in story ideas and can be contacted at emily.pyrek@lee.net.

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