Do stretching programs in the workplace prevent injuries?
Musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) injuries occur when workers are exposed to risk factors at work, performing frequent activities and tasks in awkward postures that, over time, create pain and injuries. Examples include carpal tunnel, sprains, strains, tears, herniated discs, and pinched nerves. MSDs are typically one-third of work-related injuries and are among the most frequently reported causes of lost or restricted work time. The average number of days away from work for an MSD in 2020 was 14 days.
Many companies have implemented stretching programs to reduce workplace injuries. While stretching has many benefits, it is not recommended as a stand-alone method of injury prevention for workers and athletes, as research on stretching programs shows mixed results.
Stretching has many benefits, including added flexibility, stress relief, posture improvement, and increased range of motion and blood flow. However, stretching should never be done to the point of pain, and that point will vary with each individual worker.
To reduce the frequency and severity of MSDs, a multifaceted approach is recommended, including identifying risks, worker training, early reporting, management support, and implementing solutions that control hazards.
For a stretching program to be effective, it should be designed by an expert and target both the specific types of work and workers’ physical condition. Stretching programs can be included as a tool during worker training as part of an overall injury prevention program, but should not be used as a stand-alone intervention.
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