What nurses need to know about muscoloskeletal disorders

Nurses are some of the hardest working, most underappreciated employees. Their work is not only grueling — it is often dangerous. There are many risks that nurses contend with on a daily basis, including exposure to diseases and interaction with unpredictable patients.

One of the greatest risks nurses face is musocoskeletal disorders, or MSDs. MSDs are injuries or disorders that affect the muscoloskeletal system, which includes the muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, nerves and other body parts associated with movement. Read on to learn more about these disorders and how nurses can protect themselves. 

Nursing work takes a toll on the muscoloskeletal system

Common MSDs that may affect nurses include:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Muscle/tendon strain
  • Ligament sprain
  • Tendonitis
  • Tension neck syndrome
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Ruptured or herniated disc

Nurses and other health care professionals are at a much higher risk of developing these disorders than the general population. Patient lifting, transferring and repositioning are common activities for nurses on duty, and they can take a tremendous toll on the body. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, RNs are listed sixth among at-risk professions — more likely to be affected by MSDs than construction workers and stock handlers. First on the list were nursing aides, orderlies and attendants.

This problem is so pervasive that the American Nurses Association has launched a campaign to raise awareness of these injuries. The campaign, called Handle With Care, urges hospitals and other employers to limit manual patient handling as much as possible to protect nurses and limit their exposure to strains and MSDs.

Protect yourself

As a nurse, you may not always have the option to avoid lifting or moving a patient. Whenever possible, minimizing the amount of manual patient handling you do is ideal. If you must lift patients, be sure to use proper lifting technique. Speak with your supervisor if you have concerns about the safety of your working conditions.

If you do sustain an injury at work, whether from a single traumatic incident or as a result of gradual wear and tear on your body, report it promptly to protect your legal rights and seek advice from an attorney experienced in work injury claims. MSDs can be lift-altering or career-ending, and securing proper representation can help you secure your future.