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What are lower limb disorders?

Lower Limb Disorders (LLDs) at work affect the hips, knees and legs and usually happen because of overuse - workers may report lower limb pain, aching and numbness without a specific disease being identified.

Acute injury caused by a violent impact or extreme force is less common. However, athletes and military personnel are more prone to these injuries so workers who take part in these activities may report them at work.

Scientific evidence suggests that there are several recognised diseases of the lower limb which can be work related such as: hip and knee osteoarthritis; knee bursitis, meniscal lesions/tears; stress fracture/reaction injury and varicose veins of the lower legs.

Osteoarthritis (OA)

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative condition that affects the joints of the body (eg knees, hips and spine), and happens when the cartilage coating at these joints becomes damaged or worn away. Hip OA is more common among male than female workers and farmers have a significantly higher risk of suffering from it. There is a significantly increased risk of knee OA among miners, floor layers and cleaners. 

Knee bursitis

Knee bursitis - also called coal miner's, carpet layer's or housemaid's knee - is caused by repetitive kneeling or knee-straining activities. Workers who develop bursitis generally report tenderness and swelling, and a reduction in knee movement due to pain and tightening of the skin over the kneecap.

Beat knee or hyperkeratosis is the thickening of the skin over the knee due to pressure. It is an acute and extreme form of bursitis and is common among those regularly involved in knee-straining activities, such as kneeling and squatting.

Meniscal lesions/ tear damage

If the knee is bent or twisted while bearing a load, the force may cause meniscal lesions or damage to occur. Overuse trauma, for example repetitive squatting or kneeling, can also cause meniscus injury or damage. Such damage leans toward the injured knee being inclined to degenerative changes typical of OA.

Stress fracture/stress reaction injuries

Stress fracture and reaction injuries are the result of repeated micro-injuries to bone, typically found in those who regularly undertake marching or stamping of the feet.  They are more common in people undergoing military training and in athletes, particularly long-distance runners.

Varicose veins

Varicose veins are any dilated subcutaneous veins of the leg. Employees may complain of feelings of heaviness and pain, a sensation of swelling of the legs, night time calf cramps and restless legs. These complaints can increase during the day, especially after prolonged standing.

Updated 2012-12-07