In many manual jobs, it is common for people to experience physical issues and injury. This is often due to the risks and hazards involved, as well as repetitive movements. Injuries are particularly common in construction trades. One such trade is plastering.
While it’s not the most dangerous job, Plastering is a hard job that involves a lot of repetitive movements. Many of these movements involve the elbow, which is used when applying plaster to walls.
Plasterers will carry out their job for many hours a day and this can lead to overuse. Eventually, over time this can result in tennis elbow. This painful condition can stop or inhibit plasterers from carrying out their job correctly.
What is tennis elbow and why is it common in plasterers?
Tennis elbow is a condition that affects the outside of the elbow. It results in pain around the elbow and its clinical name is epicondylitis.
The condition occurs through repetitive movement and overuse of the muscles and tendons in the forearm. The resulting pain can be felt throughout the outside of the elbow, and it can also be felt in the forearm.
The pain is often made worse when you bend your arm or lift heavy objects. It can also be felt when gripping small items and twisting the forearm can also result in pain.
The causes of tennis elbow
Using the elbow requires the use of many different muscles, most of which are in the forearm. When you overuse your muscles and tendons you cause damage that leads to small tears and inflammation. As a result, the pain you feel often starts at the bony lump on the outside of the elbow.
Essentially, it is an overuse injury that is caused by the consistent contraction of the muscles in the forearm. As the muscles twist while moving the elbow, it eventually causes pain that can become excruciating.
Why do plasterers suffer with tennis elbow?
Plastering is a job that involves repetitive movements for many hours a day. There is a lot of twisting of the forearm and gripping items when mixing plaster or even holding the plastering hawk, trowel, and other tools.
It’s impossible for plasterers to avoid these movements, as they are needed to carry out several parts of their job. This might include applying plaster to the walls, carrying items, and even mixing. The muscles and tendons are used heavily over a long period of time, and can eventually become damaged. As plasterers continue to use the muscles and tendons, the issue worsens over time. In some instances, it reaches the point where plasterers are unable to work because of the pain.
Ways for a plasterer to avoid tennis elbow
There is no solution that will completely guarantee avoiding tennis elbow, but there are some things plasterers can do to reduce the risk.
As it is an injury that is caused by repetitive movements, plasterers should ensure that they take the right steps to reduce the risk. This can include:
- Take small breaks at regular intervals. This will ensure that the muscles and tendons get to relax regularly, helping to ease the strain.
- While plastering does need a certain technique, plasterers might want to consider making a slight adjustment. Just one simple change in movement and they might find that they ease the tension in their muscles and elbow
- Rest is important. If the issue flares up, then it is important that you give the area time to heal
- Warm up muscles with stretches
- Try and use tools and equipment that are lighter. Also, a larger grip size on trowels will enable a plasterer to use a lighter grip
- Use a tennis elbow splint or support. This can provide additional support for the tendons and muscles
- Carry out exercises to strengthen the muscles in the forearm.
What treatments are available for tennis elbow?
If plasterers find they suffer from tennis elbow, considerable overuse can result in long-term problems that need further treatment. There are several different options available that can treat tennis elbow. These are:
- Rest – this will mean that plasterers should avoid all plastering until the problem subsides
- Painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs can help to ease swelling and pain.
- Physiotherapy can help to ease problems with movement such as pain and stiffness. They will also provide exercises that can help to strengthen the arm
- Some people might be offered a steroid injection that includes cortisol. This will be injected into the area and can offer short-term relief. You can only have three injections with a gap of 3-6 months between each injection.
- Shockwave treatment – This uses shockwaves that ease pain and movement in the area.
- The final solution is surgery, which involves removing the damaged section of tendon
More injuries that are common in plastering
Plastering is a physical job that comes with a number of risks. As a result, there are several common injuries. It’s possible to avoid many of these injuries with best working practice and the correct PPE, although some are linked to overuse.
- Eye injuries – this is common when plasterers get plaster in their eye. While it might clear itself, many will need to visit A&E to have their eyes washed.
- Musculoskeletal injuries – this covers many areas of the body and affects the joints. This can include the wrists, elbow (tennis elbow), shoulders, knees, neck, back and ankles.
- Trips and falls – Plasterers can also suffer injuries from falls as they use ladders and platforms to work. This can include sprains and breaks.
- Broken fingers and cuts – As they use power tools for mixing, there are possible hazards relating to the paddle that can result in broken fingers and cuts.
Plasterers will quite often suffer with tennis elbow. It can make them struggle to carry out their job correctly. It’s caused through repetitive use of the muscles and tendons in and around the elbow.
However, there are treatments available and things that can be done to help reduce the risk of suffering from the condition.