Traumatic injuries are the most common occupational disorders. Most injuries that occur in the workplace are similar to injuries that occur elsewhere, such as in sports or in daily life. They are different in that they are connected to work and are often covered under special insurance systems (such as workers’ compensation) and are all potentially preventable. The term occupational injury is used differently in occupational health than the word injury is used in general medicine because the term has a special meaning and usage in insurance. In occupational health, an injury is a disorder that happens as the result of a single event, usually but not always as the result of trauma, such as a cut or blow or burn or force. An injury in this sense can also be caused by other physical or chemical factors that results in damage right away. By comparison, an occupational disease in this specialized sense develops over time or is the result of repeated exposures or strain. Most occupational injuries (around 40%) are soft tissue injuries, such as strains, sprains and hernias. Most of these cases are acute back pain (about 25% of total injuries) but when low back pain becomes chronic, it is counted in many systems as a musculoskeletal disease. Pain is a complex sensation which is only partly the result of nerve impulses from a damaged body part. Pain is also linked to emotion and suffering and is made much worse by depression, alienation and lack of sleep. Occupational health services should seek to help the worker to recovery as soon and as much as possible and to return the worker to work as soon as it is safe and appropriate to do so. Fitness-to-work evaluations are essential to early and safe return to work when the worker is ready. The longer a worker stays off work, the less likely it is that the worker will ever return and the more likely it is that the worker will have difficulty re-integrating into any workplace and into society.
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