Jun 29 2015

A Healthy Employee is a Safer & More Productive Employee. Part One: Inflammation & Injury Healing

One of our favorite phrases around here is “A healthy worker is a safe worker.” This is part one in a series to explain the many facets of what that means to us.

Many of the common injuries we see in and out of the workplace are primarily problems with inflammation. According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, musculoskeletal disorders accounted for one-third of all the days-away-from-work cases, and required a median of 11 days to recuperate, compared with 8 days for the overall average.

In the lingo of physical therapists, athletic trainers, and OSHA, most injuries that we deal with in the workplace are repetitive-use musculoskeletal injuries. This means that they are injuries that occur gradually, with no real known accident or “mechanism of injury.” We’re talking about plantar fasciitis, tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis), tendinitis, bursitis and pretty much anything that ends in the suffix “-itis”. Frequently, some well-placed stretches and post-offer pre-employment testing can prevent these types of injures from ever occuring. But our overal health makes a difference in injury healing. 

 “-itis” is the Latin suffix meaning “inflammation”. It may seem like a far reach to say that your general health and nutrition can affect inflammation but many things can slow your healing; diabetes, smoking, dehydration, and poor nutrition are the big ones. In fact, research has shown that smokers have an increased risk of rotator cuff tear and disease, as well as reinjury of the rotator cuff after surgery because smoking impedes the healing process. It’s no wonder that the affordable care act allows a higher incentive cap for smoking cessation than all of the other aspects of wellness- smoking costs a lot (stay tuned for more on in part two of this series).

So it’s really not such a stretch to say that if you are healthy overall, you may recover faster from many injuries.  It’s also not such a stretch to say that creating a culture where your employees are motivated and able to optimize their health can lead those employees to be more aware and safer on the job.

Add inflammation to the list of why you, as an employer, need to pay more attention to the health of your workers, and why workplace wellness is the way to stay ahead of health-related costs.

Maybe an apple a day really will keep us out of the increasingly crowded doctor’s waiting room.

Katie Buehrle

Certified Athletic Trainer