Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on May 27, 2020

Hand and Wrist Injuries

Carpal tunnel syndrome -- numbness that’s caused by a pinched nerve in your wrist -- takes a lot of heat for computer-related hand and wrist injuries. But you’re more likely to get it if you work with tools that vibrate, or use a repetitive, twisting motion to get your job done. To Help Prevent It: Take breaks often. Talk with your doctor or an occupational therapist. They may suggest wearing a brace or that a change in position could help.

Back Pain

Whether you work outside pushing a mower or in a cube pushing paper, your back can take a beating. Who has time to remember to lift heavy objects the proper way, practice good posture when you sit, and get up to walk around every half hour or so (or take a break if you’re on your feet all day)? And if you have a few extra pounds, that only makes things worse. Back pain costs employers more than $7 billion a year. To Prevent It: Use your legs to lift, watch your posture, and always ask for help if something is too heavy or awkward.

Hearing Loss

More than 30 million of us face harmful levels of noise on the job. An additional 9 million work with materials (solvents, metals) that could lead to hearing loss. And it isn’t just the workplace that’s causing the problem -- even folks in quiet offices listen to music or other audio at unsafe sound levels through headphones or earbuds. To Prevent It: Wear earplugs if you’re exposed to prolonged sound louder than 85 decibels (for example, an idling bulldozer).

Lower-Body Pain or Swelling

When work makes you sit or stand for hours at a time, you might get fluid buildup in your legs, ankles, and feet. The condition's name is peripheral edema. Symptoms include swelling and discomfort. Check with your doctor, who may prescribe something as simple as compression socks. To Prevent It: Move around often. Your doctor may be able to suggest exercises you can do to make things better.

Eye Strain or Injury

More than 20,000 eye injuries happen in the workplace every year, at a cost of about $300 million. Many workers are also affected by computer vision syndrome, or digital eye strain, which can lead to dry eyes, headaches, blurred vision, and neck and shoulder pain. To Prevent It: Follow the 20-20-20 rule: Take a 20-second break every 20 minutes to look at something 20 feet away.

Stress-Related Pain

Stress can play a major role in all sorts of ills, including:

  • Headaches
  • Lack of sleep
  • Stomachaches
  • Problems concentrating
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

More than a third of American workers have it at some point. And it doesn’t always go away once you clock out. To Prevent It: Find your stress-busters. They could include regular exercise, time with friends or setting aside time each day just for you.

Headaches

Pain is a common cause of missed time at work. Which type of pain causes the most sick days? Headaches. Whether it’s the strain of concentrating, everyday job stress, workplace things like noise and smells, hunger or dehydration, we’ve all had to deal with a throbbing noggin from time to time. To Prevent It: Keep some snacks at your desk that you can grab when you need to. 

Neck Pain

It starts as a little twinge that just won’t go away, no matter what you do. It often results from bad posture, whether you’re in front of a screen at the office or under a car at your shop. Any activity that pulls or strains your neck muscles can cause pain. Irritated nerves and problems with the vertebrae in your neck also can play a role. To Prevent It: Pay attention to your posture -- both when you're sitting and when you're standing. Try not to slouch. Keep your shoulders relaxed and try not to cross your legs.

Hernia

Do you lift heavy objects at work? If you don’t do it the right way, you could get a hernia. That’s when a part of your bowel slips out through a weak spot in the muscles of your belly or groin. Hernias are even more likely if you’re overweight, if you smoke, or if you don’t eat a healthy diet. It’s usually several lifts that cause a hernia, not one. To Prevent It: Learn proper lifting technique. Use your arms and legs to lift, not your back. Don't be afraid to ask for help, either.

Weight Gain

It’s all too easy to pack on extra pounds if you keep unhealthy snacks at your desk, give in to fast-food lunch runs, and sit for long periods. To Prevent It: Pack a lunch at home filled with fruits, vegetables and protein and healthy fats. Bring your own good-for-you snacks, too. If you work at a desk, take time each day to get up and move. 

Skin Problems

Your jobsite may be full of things that can affect your skin. Things like copy machine toner, solvents, and exhaust are common culprits. Contact dermatitis is a rash that appears when something irritating touches you. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, you have a higher chance of getting skin cancer. To Prevent It: Know what could be risky at your job, and do your best to keep it away from your skin.

Respiratory Disease

Anyone exposed to lots of dust, fibers, or chemicals in the air could have problems. This can include firefighters, welders, construction workers or anyone who has a poorly-ventilated workspace. Lung diseases are the main cause of workplace illness in the U.S. Some can lead to lung cancer and death. To Prevent It: Talk with your supervisor about ways you can limit or eliminate your exposure. If you smoke, stop.

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