Sask. farmer with shoulder pain? The doctor would like to see you

Sask. farmer with shoulder pain? The doctor would like to see you
Feb 05, 2024

Dr. Angelica Lang is studying how producers move

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

A researcher from the University of Saskatchewan (USask) is looking for Saskatchewan farmers with sore shoulders to participate in a study about how producers move.

“The initial focus is looking at the postural exposures (movement requirements) farmers experience at work,” Dr. Angelica Lang, an associate professor at the Canadian Centre for Rural and Agricultural Health at the USask’s College of Medicine, told

Dr. Lang also wants to connect with farmers who don’t have shoulder pain.

This will allow her team to define the movements, compare those to farmers with pain and make other comparisons along the way.

“We’ll look at sex, to see if women do things differently than men,” she said. “And for people who already have pain, we want to know if they’re moving differently than the people without pain. This can help us understand why injuries might be happening.”

This research emerged from a previous study Dr. Lang ran.

Angelica Lang
Dr. Angelica Lang (USask photo).

In 2022, she and Dr. Kenzie Friesen, a postdoctoral scholar in the Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre at the University of Calgary, surveyed Saskatchewan farmers and farm workers about pain, typical daily tasks and if any of those tasks were difficult or resulted in discomfort.

That study showed that 75 per cent of respondents experienced shoulder pain or discomfort over the last five years.

“We looked at the whole body, but the shoulder had some interesting results,” Lang said. “People with shoulder pain reported they had trouble lifting overhead but also below the waist. And operating different machinery caused discomfort for their shoulders. And people provided us examples of the movements they were doing.”

These movements helped guide what Dr. Lang and her team will study in this most recent research.

Producers who volunteer will receive a visit from members of Dr. Lang’s team to their home farm for about an hour.

Volunteers will wear sensors on their shoulders and other parts of their bodies and perform typical daily tasks like lifting seed bags, shoveling, or throwing hay bales.

The sensors measure the orientation, or angle, of the specific body part, Lang said.

Previous research indicated working at arm elevations of 90 degrees or more for more than 10 per cent of a work shift can double the risk of developing a shoulder injury.

Lang wants to visit at least 50 farms for this research.

Once all the data is collected and examined, the next step in the process is to create a resource for farmers.

“I hope the resource can include really targeted recommendations for farmers based on what we’ve measured,” she said. “If we find one task is particularly high risk for the way a farmer’s shoulder blades or arms move, we can provide recommendations to help them be in a better physical position to complete those tasks.”

Dr. Lang is also running another study related to agriculture.

This one involves the “Rotopod” farm equipment simulator at the University of Saskatchewan.

The machine simulates staying seated in a piece of equipment for multiple hours. While in it, Dr. Lang’s team examines how the vibrations from the machinery affect farmers.

Any Saskatchewan farmers interested in participating in either one of Dr. Lang’s studies can send an email or call 306-966-5544.

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