All organizations have a certain percentage of employees that seem to have many physical complaints.  Often times the employee attributes various symptoms that they are experiencing to one or more job tasks that they are performing at work. This is nothing new, and is quite common in all organizations. Therefore, many safety managers and healthcare nurses become perplexed whether these symptoms are real or not, or is it really the job tasks that are a large contributory factor.  Ergo assessments cannot positively say whether or not the employee’s symptoms are true, nor can taking video.  Especially when the worker keeps up with work demands and pace.   Unfortunately, some employees obtain a dubious reputation because of their various complaints to the company.  If these symptoms are truly being experienced when the employee is performing the job tasks that they report this is a problem.   And, a problem that EHS, medical, ergonomists, or others within the company cannot solve.  So, often this type of problem fades into obscurity and fingers crossed that the employee will stop their complaints.  Do not take this wrong, nor take offense, because EHS, medical and ergonomists do their best in most circumstances.  Yet, there are so many out liars in the work place, this is where the unknowable problem can be knowable!

At physical performance solutions, we have the ability to use surface EMG, or Semg, that uses sensors applied to surface muscles that actually record in real time as the employee is working and  how the muscles are working. How quickly are the muscles fatiguing is one aspect that is looked at. Another would be activation of muscles how quickly or how slowly are the muscles activating. Other reports that can be generated would be if bilateral activation of the same muscles are being similar or not. This gives the clinician who is experienced with using the surface electromyography a better idea of how to hone in on early intervention of soft tissue massage.

There have been several cases where this has come into play in our interactions with organizations. In one such case an employee had complaints of lateral elbow and dorsal forearm pain. This are of the forearm are where the wrist extensors are located.  The employee would perform the work; and to view the person working, they appeared normal: no compensations, no grimacing, no decreased pace of work performed. If pictures or video of the employee working, all would agree that the job performed  was accurate and very good. However, the employee always had a particular complaint on certain aspects of the job. Yet no one in the company believed the complaints, other than to think they wanted to work elsewhere in the company.  We were asked to perform Semg while performing the job tasks that apparently were aggravating the symptoms.   We applied the sensors to the back of the forearms on both sides to watch left  and right and allowed them to work. The sensors are wireless and we don’t need to be right on top of the employee while they’re working in able and able to record what is taking place. What we noticed in fact, what she was reporting was actually true.  The muscles that were symptomatic were fatiguing at such a quick rate the employee wasn’t even aware of it. In other words the muscles were fatiguing at two or three minute intervals into the work., However she did not feel the weakness and soreness that were her complaints until around the seven minute mark into that particular job.

So using artificial intelligence such as surface electromyography becomes extremely in the workplace why?

  1. Using Semg can help separate true complaints from possibly other complaints that may have nothing to do with the work job tasks at hand.
  2. Using the Semg also helps the clinician on site that is experienced with soft tissue massage techniques to restore the tissue motion. It is the lack of tissue motion and increased tissue density that occurs which creates these types of symptoms in individuals.
  3. Therefore the use of EMG not only hones in on the problem, the clinician can quickly resolve the problem by either the massage work or by restructuring how the individual is working at the workstation. That is for another blog.

This photograph is showing the person beginning to work. Obviously the picture is grayed out for respect of the company. What we want to focus on are the bars on the right-hand side of the picture. The bars are representing the sensors that are placed on the individual

What is YOUR take home point?

No longer should organizations be comfortable with the status quo.  Many organizations utilize artificial intelligence, AI, for assembling, engineering development and in the product itself.  Employees the bulwark of the organization and NOW need AI more than ever to reduce soft tissue aberrance developments that cannot be felt until symptoms arise.

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