ISE professor investigates musculoskeletal disorders in new book

Note: body

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs, such as low back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome, are a leading cause of pain and disability for many workers and are a multi-billion dollar annual problem for manufacturers and employers around the world. In an effort to help others better understand these musculoskeletal disorders and why they occur, Sean Gallagher, the Hal N. and Peggy S. Pennington Professor in the Auburn University Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, has written a new book titled “Musculoskeletal Disorders: The Fatigue Failure Mechanism.”

The book, co-authored by Mary F. Barbe, a professor at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine, is a sharp discussion of how MSA develops and evolves, and how they can be prevented and controlled. The book provides evidence, based on an internationally award-winning paper by Gallagher, that fatigue failure occurs in musculoskeletal tissues and discusses important insights regarding the proposed mechanism.

Fatigue is the process by which physical damage accumulates in a material that is repeatedly exposed to stress. Typically, fatigue failure techniques have been used to explain the development and failure of damage in inert structures ranging from paper clips to bridges. However, the musculoskeletal system is also made of materials that are subjected to significant repetitive stress and such exposures would likely also result in damage to the musculoskeletal system.

In the book, the authors identify new approaches to risk assessment based on the cumulative effects of exposure to highly variable load conditions. These new approaches can also be applied to evaluate the effectiveness of job rotation scenarios and to quantify the efficacy of exoskeletons. In addition to the proposed models to understand how the body maintains musculoskeletal homeostasis, the complexities of fatigue failure in biological environments are also explored.

“A lot of research has been devoted to this topic; however, the identification of a specific mechanism by which these injuries develop has been lacking,” Gallagher said. “That is, exactly how and why do these injuries arise?”

Gallagher, who focuses on the mechanical aspects of the body in the book, and Barbe, who focuses on the biological processes of the body, have collaborated on research papers in the past.

“We’ve pooled our knowledge to get a better understanding of what’s really happening with these injuries,” Gallagher said.

A unique aspect of musculoskeletal tissues discussed in the book is that, unlike ordinary materials, these materials have the ability to self-heal. The book models the balance between damage accumulation and healing, and discusses factors important in maintaining musculoskeletal health.

The book also provides current information on the epidemiology of MSDs, the structure and function of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems, as well as several unique aspects of musculoskeletal tissues, such as the ability of these tissues to heal themselves. The impact of personal characteristics on MSD risk and implications for MSD prevention and optimization of musculoskeletal health is also discussed.

The book is a helpful guide for anyone interested in learning more about MSAs, including occupational and environmental health and safety professionals, physical therapists, and occupational physicians.

“We hope readers will find this book helpful in understanding and managing the incidence and costs of musculoskeletal disorders,” Gallagher said.

Click here to view the book on Amazon.

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