Researchers to design intervention for work-related injury

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has awarded Temple University researchers a $1.7 million grant to determine whether intervention can prevent work-related injury from developing into a chronic disability.

The scientists, Ann Barr, PhD, Mary Barbe, Ph.D., and Brian Clark, Ph.D., from the department of physical therapy in Temple's College of Health Professions, and Fayez Safadi, Ph.D., from the department of anatomy and cell biology in Temple's School of Medicine, will examine the effects of ergonomic and pharmaceutical interventions in the secondary prevention of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) in a rat model.

Repetitive tasks that are common during the work day, such as reaching, lifting and typing, can lead to injury and disability, or WMSDs. In the United States, WMSDs, including carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis, cost employers $20 billion per year in direct worker's compensation expenses and additional costs in lost productivity.

Although preventing the damage from happening in the first place, or primary intervention, would be ideal, typically patients don't report WMSDs to their doctors until they are experiencing symptoms and damage already has been done. Secondary intervention occurs after a disorder has developed and is designed to stop the condition from becoming chronic. According to principal investigator Ann Barr, PT, Ph.D., associate professor of physical therapy, "Because there are still so many questions about the underlying conditions, there's uncertainty about the best type of treatment. As a result, sufferers are often prescribed a package of treatments, including physical therapy, ergonomics and medication, and we're not sure which treatment is actually working.

"We're proposing a combination of NSAIDs, which are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and aspirin; and ergonomics, which involves adjustment of the workspace to ease pressure and force

Contact: Eryn Jelesiewicz
Temple University

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