What is Occupational Medicine?
Occupational medicine is a category of medicine that involves medical studies and practices that have to do with injuries or illnesses that occur in or because of a patient's place of employment. This means a person who practices or studies occupational medicine cares for patients with injuries or health conditions that are directly related to his work and work environments. Likewise, a person in this fields may study the manner in which a person’s health may affect his ability to work efficiently. A health care professional who specializes in occupational medicine may focus not only on treating work-related injuries, diseases, and conditions, but also on preventing them in the first place.
There are many types of conditions that may be treated or prevented through the application of occupational medicine. For example, an office worker who spends much of his time typing documents and handling other computer tasks may suffer from repetitive stress injuries. A health care professional in the occupational medicine field may treat him for such injuries. In some cases, a person in this field may even work to help prevent workers from developing repetitive stress injuries instead of treating them after the fact.
Occupational medicine may involve the treatment of injuries or conditions that develop because of a wide range of adverse work conditions. For example, a person may seek occupational medicine treatment because of a job that requires him to lift heavy objects for a significant portion of each day. Likewise, a person who uses heavy tools or has to perform tasks while in awkward body positions may seek treatment or advice on ways to prevent injuries and long-term health conditions. Additionally, a person may even seek occupational medication treatment because of the air he inhales during the course of performing his employment duties. For example, a person may inhale chemical fumes at work or work in areas in which the air is heavily polluted.
The practice of occupational medicine may not be limited to only the physical effects work has on a person’s health. It can include emotional stress as well. For example, this branch of medicine may include the study of the ways emotional stress in the workplace can influence a person’s overall health. Students and practitioners of this type of medicine may consider the ways in which long-term stress on the job may influence a person’s susceptibility to both acute and chronic illnesses. Likewise, they may study whether work-related emotional stress makes a person more prone to accidents on the job.
Occupational medicine has really exploded the past few years, with more and more people spending longer hours in front of a computer and using a mouse. I had to see an occupational doc for pain in my shoulder. It was my trapezius muscle (controls me raising my arm to the side). It was inflamed from too much mouse use. He told me to get a trackball and that really did help. I also try to get up and move around some and exercise my arm, so it's not in the same position all day.
Doctors are seeing a lot more conditions like mine, as well as things like carpal tunnel syndrome, so occupational medicine is a burgeoning field.
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