Orthopedic ONE physicians break down the most common work-related injuries from back pain to shoulder pain. Get the latest from Dr. Jason Ferrel, Dr. Brian Tscholl, Dr. Jeffrey Backes and Dr. Vivek Sahai in this special Health publication of Columbus Monthly Magazine.

We often talk about injuries related to the “weekend warrior” lifestyle, but orthopedic injuries aren’t confined to the weekend. In fact, your weekday activity – or lack thereof – could be a leading contributor to muscle and joint pain.   

On average, the American office worker sits more than 10 hours per day. Most of that time is spent hunched over a desk. Industries such as healthcare and education have other unique physical requirements, such as lifting heavy objects or standing for extended periods of time.  

Attributing new back pain to that epic tennis match last weekend may add a bit of glamour, but it could be from months of poor lifting form on the job.  

The physician experts at Orthopedic ONE help us understand what’s troubling our backs, knees and shoulders – and most importantly – how to prevent injury so we can survive the week and keep enjoying our weekend fun!  

Low Back Pain

“Some neck and back pain is easily diagnosed and treated, and other times it can be somewhat elusive. What works for one patient, may not work for another,” says Jason Ferrel, MD. “In addition to my role as surgeon, I try to be a partner to my patients and help them establish expectations for recovery and navigate all of their non-operative options.”  

This type of non-specific, short-term, low back pain is one of the most common conditions I see in office, but can be one of the most challenging to diagnose and treat. It can appear suddenly and without real cause.  Symptoms vary from a feeling of numbness, inability to move or even the sensation you’ve been stabbed in the back. You could perform the same task 500 times, say lifting a patient into bed, and the 501st time could trigger this type of pain. The good news? Eighty percent of patients with new low back pain will find relief within six weeks.  

Treatment: Keep moving and living a normal life – just stop the offending activity. Treatments may include anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxers, steroid injections, and a range of other options like physical therapy, chiropractic interventions, yoga and massage. My rule of thumb is four weeks. If the treatment has offered no relief in four weeks, move on. Don’t waste your time and money.

Prevention: Proper form when lifting, correct workstation ergonomics and exercises to strengthen your back and core muscles can help.  

Shoulder Injuries from Overuse or Repetitive Motion

“The goal of any shoulder treatment is to help patients return to normal life and continue to enjoy favorite activities like golf, tennis, weightlifting and Crossfit,” says Jeffrey Backes, MD. “After making the appropriate diagnosis, I work to personalize a treatment program to keep patients active and pain free."  

Subacromial impingement/bursitis, is the most common cause of shoulder pain, followed by injuries to the rotator cuff, biceps and AC joint. It is typically a combination of inflammation of the bursae, which overlies the rotator cuff, and compression between the rotator cuff tendons and bony parts of the shoulder (including bone spurs). Frequently a subtle onset, it is exacerbated by repetitive overhead motions. While strength is preserved, there is pain with lifting overhead and often pain at night. 

Treatment: Conservative treatment is typically all that is required and may include physical therapy, some activity modifications, NSAIDS and possibly injections. Surgery is rarely needed, and most patients return to normal activity within a few weeks after starting treatment.

Prevention:  Proper lifting form and stretching to improve mobility can help, but if pain is preventing you from doing your job or enjoying your favorite activities, talk to your physician. Most shoulder problems can be addressed with individualized conservative care.    

Knee Pain

“The knee is one of the largest joints in our bodies, and quite literally, supports most of our daily activity,” says Vivek Sahai, MD. “Knee pain or degeneration has a profound affect on our quality of life. It’s a privilege to help my patients return to the things they love.”  

As you slide into your 30s, and especially into your 40s and 50s, you may begin to feel the effects of early wear and tear on your joints in the form of arthritis. A soccer injury in your youth followed by high impact activity like running can lead to arthritis. Weight and inactivity also put us at greater risk to develop arthritis. While joint pain can be downright painful, there is a lot we can do today to alleviate pain and keep you active.  

Treatment: Conservative options for early onset arthritis include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and steroid or other injections. When conservative methods no longer provide relief from pain and you are unable to work or enjoy your regular activities, your physician can discuss your surgical options, including same-day total joint replacement.

Prevention: While there isn’t much that can be done to prevent arthritis, there is a lot you can do to slow its progression. It is important to remain active, but a switch to lower impact activity like swimming and cycling can ease pain and prevent further wear and tear.    

Heels vs. Foot Health

Let’s face it, fashion often takes precedent over function in the footwear department. So, how much damage are we doing to our feet when we say yes to the heels? Brian Tscholl, MD, weighs in…  

Can footwear cause injury?

Yes, I see a lot of injuries related to footwear. Some examples include young athletes with growing bones getting used to wearing cleats, minimalist or barefoot runners (this type of footwear is often associated with stress fractures if an athlete does not ease into wearing them), walkers and hikers who wear poor fitting low tops or hiking boots and ladies wearing high fashion heels that squish their toes in the front or are the wrong size.  

What kinds of conditions are worsened by footwear selection?

Bunions, arthritis, tendonitis, stress fractures and ankle sprains.   

Ditch the heels?

To quote my partner, Dr. Scott Van Aman, “High heels should be an occasional shoe, not an everyday shoe.” When a woman chooses to wear high heels what is most important is finding a shoe that fits properly and does not cause instability.