From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Study May Help Determine Ergonomics’ Preventive Abilities

Researchers at Temple University are hoping that a recent study involving repetitive work tasks, reaching and grasping and their impact on upper extremity tissues could ultimately help determine how effective ergonomics might be in the prevention of work related bone-tissue damage.

The study, entitled “Repetitive, Negligible Force Reaching in Rats Induces Pathological Overloading of Upper Extremity Bones,” sought to determine the changes in upper extremity bone tissues resulting from the performance of highly repetitive reaching and grasping tasks in rats.

According to Ann Barr, P.T., Ph.D., lead author of the study, the researchers chose to study work tasks alone to isolate their impact. Ultimately, said Barr in a Temple University press release regarding the study, the results of the study could be beneficial in helping “industry and medicine establish workplace guidelines to prevent [work-related] MSD[s].”

The group looked at both tissue and behavior and how each was affected by increasing or decreasing repetitive tasks in test subjects. As part of the current study, the third by Temple researchers in a series of related studies, researchers looked for decreased movement performance and task avoidance as signs of tissue damage in rats performing repetitive tasks. Specifically, 17 rats in the study reached an average of 8.3 times per minute for 45 mg food pellets for two hours each day, three days per week for up to 12 weeks. Researchers found that evidence of tissue damage including bone tissue inflammation as a result of the repetitive task was seen as early as three to six weeks.

Ultimately, says Barr, the Temple researchers hope to use their studies to help determine “the power of ergonomics or medication in preventing or lessening tissue damage” in the workplace.