The Task at Hand: Unravelling Upper Extremity Workplace Injuries
We interact with tools and objects every day. It is one of the most fundamental, yet vital, aspects of human movement. Yet all too often, people leave work at the end of the day feeling tired and suffering from aches or pains. This not only influences their performance at work, but their quality of life at home.
Although the human hand and forearm have unimaginable complexity, the basic activities of daily living, like reaching for a cup of coffee, come naturally to most people. But even simple movements require the brain to initiate a complex series of coordinated events.
Unfortunately, such a complex system lends itself to complex problems. Work-related pain and injury to the upper extremities, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive strain injury, are a common cause of sick leave and disability among working adults. As Canada Research Chair in Neuromuscular Mechanics and Ergonomics, Dr. Michael Holmes is trying to understand why some people develop workplace injuries while others who perform the same work do not.
Holmes and his research team are investigating how the brain determines muscle recruitment and control strategies, as well as how these influence the risk of injury.
By performing workplace simulations, they hope to better understand how pain and injury interact with neural and mechanical output. Ultimately, this will lead to workplace and tool design strategies that make occupational tasks safer and more efficient and help rehabilitate those with musculoskeletal and neurological impairments.