According to the definition provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO), an occupational injury is any which are contracted primarily as a result of an exposure to risk factors that arise from work activity.
In years gone past those work-related injuries may have been caused by working with machines, operating vehicles, or falling from heights. But with the rise of office-based employment a more insidious form of occupational injuries have begun to emerge: Repetitive Motion Injuries (RMI).
RMIs may be one of the less obvious workplace hazards but it is one of the most harmful in the long run.
Repetitive motions such as typing and using the computer 24/7 can strain muscles and tendons causing back pain, vision problems, and carpal tunnel syndrome – especially in the UAE where long working hours are common.
But employee training and the use of proper ergonomic equipment can help keep these incidents low.
One particular brand of RMIs currently of concern in the workplace are upper limb disorders (ULD) – a particular group of musculoskeletal ailments affecting the shoulder, neck, elbow, forearm, wrist, hand and fingers.
This includes problems with soft tissue, muscles, tendons and ligaments as well as the blood circulation or nerve supply to the upper limb. If untreated, and continually aggravated, these aches can develop into upper limb disorders.
It is now accepted that these upper limb disorders can occur without having carried out repetitive activities. In fact, while some upper limb disorders have an exact diagnosis, the cause and treatment of some upper limb pains can be more difficult to identify.
This is why posture in the work place is so vital as is the correct placement of chair, table and even screen. Wrong postures can often lead to you becoming susceptible to such disorders.
For example, the wrist works best when the hand and arm are particularly in a straight line. If it is twisted, rotated or bent this will increase the strain on the tendons and nerves which pass through the wrist to the hand.
Another factor is the force or tension which is created in nerves and tendons. Directly applying a force, particularly in activities that rotate the arm or wrist (e.g. folding boxes or twisting wires) can also trigger ULDs. Additionally, it also depends on how long a force is applied or how often the action is carried out.
“With sedentary lifestyles and maximum hours being spent at the workplace, there has been an increase in work-related musculoskeletal disorders of the upper limbs or ULDs” explains Dr Bhuvaneshwar Machani, consultant orthopedic surgeon at Burjeel Hospital.
“Physical work factors, psychosocial and environmental factors and individual characteristics affect work-related upper limb disorders.
“These disorders are not confined to particular jobs or sectors. Upper limb disorders include aches and pains in any part of the body from the shoulder to the fingers and can include problems with soft tissue, muscles, tendons and ligaments as well as the blood circulation or nerve supply.
“Pain however is a common symptom of ULDs but the experience of pain in the upper limb is also common amongst the general population. Therefore, feeling pain in the upper limb is not in itself an indication of the presence of an ULD, and such symptoms may be difficult to attribute to work with any certainty.”
Common types of work related upper limb disorders include enosynovitis in the wrist, hand or shoulder, carpal tunnel syndrome (pressure on the median nerve in the wrist), cubital tunnel syndrome (ulna nerve compression in the elbow) epicondylitis (tennis or golfers elbow), cervicalgia (neck pain) and some non-specific fore arm pain and restless hand.
“I sincerely believe that employers/management should actively be involved in minimising the risks of ULDs through a positive management approach,” continues Dr Machani.
“They must have an understanding of ULDs and should be committed towards its prevention.
Organisations should educate their employees on the common ULDs, their possible risks and how to combat them.
“Strong focus should be put on introducing workplace training around ULDs, assessing the posture of employees as they work and encouraging early reporting of symptoms.
“Employees who have symptoms that suggest a ULD should seek medical advice and report any symptoms to their employer as soon as possible as an early intervention and treatment is the best way to avoid long-term problems.”
The name Ziggy Darwish has played a major role in shaping the Dubai fitness scene.
After serving six years as a Gunnery sailor in the Royal Australian Navy, Darwish started his fitness journey as a personal trainer in 2004 working out of the best gyms in Melbourne, back in his native Australia.
He was kept busy with a blue riband clientele, training the who’s who of Melbourne’s elite including police commissioners and judges.
But in 2006 he was approached by a fitness company wanting to introduce boot camps to Dubai. They needed someone with a military background – enter Ziggy.
Darwish was missing his time at sea, travelling the world, so he hopped on a plane to the UAE.
His first experience, like most visitors, was: “Wow!” But it wasn’t the bright lights, fancy restaurants, or clubs that caught his attention, it was the lack of fitness professionals and gyms. Back then Dubai basically had no fitness industry.
There was no Fitness First, no Crossfit, no M45 – just a few trainers doing their own thing.
“I wanted the UAE to get the best kick-start in fitness” recalls Darwish. “No gimmicks like you see now with magic pills and creams. The goal was to get people to train right, eat right and do it with the end goal of having a happy community being health conscious.
“My overall philosophy on health and fitness is keep it simple: find an activity you enjoy and eat right…90 per cent food, 10 per cent exercise.”
After just three weeks in Dubai, Ziggy and his partners got a call from the now defunct 7DAYS asking about his boot camps.
A week later he took the whole staff of 7DAYS for a bootcamp and after a massive write-up, the phones didn’t stop ringing for a year. Thousands of Dubai expats and locals joined up for Darwish’s four-week courses.
Dubai got its first taste of ‘Ziggy-style’ fitness and they loved it.
Darwish then moved on to a new company called Fitness 02, which has played a large part in shaping the fitness industry in the UAE.
From the first boot camps at Ski Dubai, the first international diabetes walkathon day, training multi-national corporations, kids fitness boot camps, football camps; Darwish and his team of ten trainers had the UAE covered in all areas of health and fitness.
But several years later, after running the fitness company, having a TV show, doing radio interviews and events, Darwish was burnt out.
“Running a company, dealing with trainers, staff, marketing, balancing the books, thinking three steps ahead of the competition took a massive toll on me,” he explains.
“I almost forgot how to love the craft and found myself focusing only on the ruthless side of business. And that was the beginning of the end of my fitness career – for a while at least.”
Ziggy took a few years off where he wrote a book on fitness, wrote and produced a feature film and continued to train a few clients while he watched the local fitness industry explode.
“Back when I started there was nothing, now you can do anything. You want to do MMA you have ten gyms to choose from, boot camps – hundreds, gyms – hundreds. Dubai has everything.”
Missing his boot camp days Ziggy decided to go back to where it all began – as a one-on-one personal trainer.
But Darwish found the clientele had changed considerably since he first started, with people looking for a much more holistic approach to fitness rather than a quick fix.
He also found a strong trend in Arabic women seeking fitness.
“Everyone has a different goal,” explains Darwish. “I have clients who are looking for weight loss, a client getting ready for a marathon, another to learn Muay Thai. I even train a little Irish lad who wants to be the next Conor McGregor!”
He says Dubai also has its own challenges to someone wanting to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
“Training in Dubai is a lot harder for a trainer as clients have too many options to go off the rails,” he says, “with travel, work, brunches etc. So I work out a program for the body, food and lifestyle.”
“I love to help people who want to get results, if you want to train I’m here for you. You want to achieve a goal like climbing Mt. Everest let’s do it…I’m ready to train people who want to change their lives or people who need a challenge to mix things up and keep life interesting.”
He also has found time to start up the Muay Thai Muppets with good friend and professional Muay Thai boxer Jason Woodham.
The desire to become healthier is increasing day by day.
Over the years there has been a significant increase in people becoming health conscious across the world and the UAE is not far behind.
According to a 2016 Nielsen global survey, more than two-thirds of respondents in the UAE (67%) and Saudi Arabia (66%) said they actively make dietary choices to help prevent health conditions.
But people don’t just want to eat healthier; they are also looking to lead a more healthy lifestyle.
From the gym to CrossFit to yoga or even Zumba, old and young are adopting all forms of new and different workout options to stay fit.
An increasing number of people in the UAE, for example, are opting for CrossFit, a strength and conditioning programme characterised by a mix of aerobic exercises, body-weight training and Olympic weightlifting.
But while it’s great to introduce strength and weight training into your fitness regime, you must also remember that this intensive fitness training can sometimes lead to injuries if adequate preventive measures are not taken.
“Shoulder and neck injuries are common amongst athletes” says Dr Ali Al Suwaidi, consultant orthopedic surgeon at Burjeel Hospital, Abu Dhabi.
“While wrist injuries, particularly tendinitis around the wrist joint are less frequent, occasional rupture of the Pectoralis muscle of the shoulder occurs, mostly among body builders.”
However, often people are not even aware of the damage they are doing, confusing these joint injuries with muscle cramps.
“Muscle cramp is usually localised, involving the muscles and can be due to too much stress or tension,” continues Dr Ali.
“Symptoms of muscle cramps include weakness in the localised area, coordination problems between the affected muscle and the rest of the body, when the muscle is stretched due to some physical activity the pain increases, such as a calf strain.”
“However, joint injury is the injury that happens to the articulation of two or more bones. The pain in this case is deeper and intense and can happen even if a person is at rest.”
Working out requires well-toned and strong muscles all over the body. Therefore, people who are not fit or are overweight should start slow and get the body accustomed to working out and gradually move to intensive training.
“Always warm up before you start the workout and start slowly with weights,” adds Dr Ali. “The gradual progression of mild exercises to more strenuous exercises is important. In case of weight training, start with light weights and progress gradually.”
When performing strenuous exercises like CrossFit, working closely with a sports trainer is highly recommended. But you should also make sure you are listening to your body and how it feels.
Be persistent but also give your body time to adapt to the stress it is facing during the workout. According to Dr Ali: “It’s imperative to communicate closely with your trainer as he/she has to know your weaknesses, abilities and goals.
“Know when to stop if you experience muscle or joint pain. Most importantly, do not compare yourself with others around you and overload yourself; listen to your body and how it responds.
“In case of injuries, first just rest, and use ice compressions, and take analgesics. If the pain is severe, then the limb should be immobilised. If after a few weeks the injury is not getting better, it is advisable to be examined by a physician.”
Exercising regularly along with following a vigorous and balanced diet is not only essential for a healthy living, but it can also be life-saving in the long run.