We evaluated the effectiveness of ergonomic workload reduction of switching rats from a high repetition high force (HRHF) lever pulling task to a reduced force and reach rate task for preventing task-induced osteopenic changes in distal forelimb bones. Distal radius and ulna trabecular structure was examined in young adult rats performing one of three handle-pulling tasks for 12 wk: 1) HRHF, 2) low repetition low force (LRLF); or 3) HRHF for 4 wk and than LRLF thereafter (HRHF-to-LRLF). Results were compared to age-matched controls rats. Distal forelimb bones of 12-wk HRHF rats showed increased trabecular resorption and decreased volume, as control rats. HRHF-to-LRLF rats had similar trabecular bone quality as control rats; and decreased bone resorption (decreased trabecular bone volume and serum CTX1), increased bone formation (increased mineral apposition, bone formation rate, and serum osteocalcin), and decreased osteoclasts and inflammatory cytokines, than HRHF rats. Thus, an ergonomic intervention of HRHF-to-LRLF prevented loss of trabecular bone volume occurring with prolonged performance of a repetitive upper extremity task. These findings support the idea of reduced workload as an effective approach to management of work-related musculoskeletal disorders, and begin to define reach rate and load level boundaries for such interventions.
2015 by National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health