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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Cutting tracks in the bush - Do you have any advice for preventing damage to the wrist and phalanges?

Hi there Gary,
I've recently started work.. cutting tracks... full time. This involves the use of a scrub bar (basically, a strimmer on steroids), which can be a bit harsh on both wrists and fingers after gripping onto the handles tightly for hours on end. Do you have any advice for preventing damage to the wrist and phalanges? Any exercises I can do at the end of each day?
Gary comments:
These machines, even when used with a harness, require constant static contraction of the muscles of the upper body, especially of the forearms and hands. This may eventually cause spasm of the muscles and inflammation of the tendons and ligaments of the forearms, wrist and fingers.

The end results may be chronic injury such as lateral epicondylitis of the elbow and various tendonitis injuries to the wrist, such as DeQuervaine's tendonitis.

These kinds of injuries are common in sports such as Kayaking, rowing and tennis. We see these injuries in occupations such as the freezing industry where knives are used for hours on end for tasks such as boning. These are most common at the commencement of the season and usually disappear as the athlete or worker improves condition and becomes more adept at their work.

For example; incidence tendonitis is reduced in the freezing industry by ensuring that knives are razor sharp and protective gear is worn. These measures mean the worker does not need to pull so hard while being more relaxed knowing that a slip of the knife will not end up slicing a finger off.

So, the first step in preventing injury from using a strimmer is to first ensure the equipment is designed for the job, properly maintained and the worker is properly fitted with a carrying harness and protective gear.

The protective gear should include quality chainsaw gloves that have gel antivibration pads.

Eat like an athlete
Becoming progessively physically conditioned in the least time to do this repetitive work is dependent on the worker being thoroughly well nourished, just as one would do with an athlete in hard training. This means ensuring there is a little protein in the diet throughout the day and not all lumped into a single meal. Meals should be rich in plant antioxidants to soak up the free radicals produced during exercise.

Being out in the bush makes this a challenge; but I am assuming that the employer is bringing in supplies of food and this should includes fresh vegetables and fruit for the workers. Try to avoid the usual hiking stodge that lacks trace nutrients while gumming up the works.

Load Up Berry Brights and Load Up Fruitful Greens are convenient and refreshing ways to make up any dietary shortfall of fresh food. This can be added to a whey protein smoothie which can easily be made up while working the tracks by mixing these in a decanter. The powder ingredients can be pre-mixed in a plastic bag for use during the day.

It may be worth having a supply of Loadup Ultimate Recovery Stack on hand. A few scoops per day in, or additional to the smoothies, will help keep energy levels up and will definitely aid recovery from day to day.

Exercise and Massage

Stop every now and then and do some full range of motion exercises of the upper body, swivelling and swinging the trunk, arms and shoulders through their full range of motion. Do the same with the wrist and fingers.

Stretch gently during the day and do a more thorough stretching session after work has finished.

Take turns, with your mates, at the end of each day to massage all the muscles of the neck, shoulders and arms. You can use a quality massage wax such as Myo Heal. Concentrate massage on the tender spots. If you have the nutrients flowing into the body, healing will be rapid and strength and endurance will improve from one day to the next. Make the most of work breaks of 2-4 days to rest the arms and hands while keeping the daily massages going.

I reckon this should do the job with keeping you in good condition.

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1 comment:

Wayne said...

in cold and wet weather, insulate teh arms and wrist from teh elements, if the wrist is too cold or even yoru body gets too cold, the blood vessels in teh wrist will contract and the blood will also become more sticky, reducing circulation, also teh muscles tendons nad ligaments will be stiffer and more brittle and prome to injury. consuming enough fish oil will help keep the blood fluid to aid in nutrients getting better access to the wrists , tendons and ligaments ahve very poor blod supply, so everything you can do to aid the blood supply will help. also avoid getting dehydrated too often, don't go mad on drining fluids , but avoid getting too thirsty too often, to keep the circulation going.