SPOTLIGHT: Preventing repetitive motion injuries on the farm

SPOTLIGHT: Preventing repetitive motion injuries on the farm

MARCH 2022

What are repetitive motion injuries?

Injuries due to performing the same motion over and over. These conditions are due to overuse, without adequate recovery. Low back strain due to repeated lifting, especially with poor technique, is an example.

Suzanne Tanner, M.D.
Mayo Clinic

In a recent Successful Farming article, Lisa Foust Prater discusses repetitive motion injuries on the farm and how to prevent them. UMASH has resources for preventing repetitive motion.

The article is reprinted below with permission.


Lisa Foust Prater

Farmwork often involves making the same actions over and over, which can lead to repetitive-motion injuries. Whether milking cows, operating a tractor, harvesting crops by hand, carrying heavy loads, or doing a number of other chores, farmers and ranchers are at risk of developing injuries caused by repetitive motion.

The musculoskeletal system includes bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves, and any of these can be affected by repetitive motion, excessive force, or awkward posture. Fatigue, long hours, and working in hot or cold conditions are contributing factors. Injuries occur with overuse and without adequate recovery.

According to a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) report, the most common repetitive motion injuries farmers experience are backaches and pain in the shoulders, arms, and hands. The report states, “Even a motion that is harmless in and of itself, like stretching out the arm to grasp an object, or squeezing a tool, may put the worker at risk if it is repeated over and over.”

It’s difficult to pinpoint how many farmers are dealing with these injuries, because many just work through the pain. According to the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (UMASH), 75% of dairy workers report an injury like this every year.


Consider the Ergonomics

Fortunately, these injuries are preventable by analyzing your tasks and those your employees do and implementing safeguards, allowing for rest, and assigning task variety to help reduce fatigue.

The best jobs allow workers to do different types of work, changing from sitting to standing to walking and back again.

NIOSH report

Using ergonomically designed tools and work spaces can prevent injuries caused by gripping, lifting, bending, twisting, kneeling, squatting, and using vibrating equipment. Providing dollies or pallet trucks can help reduce lifting injuries.

When it comes to dairy workers, UMASH says it’s helpful to provide a platform for workers to stand on so they don’t have to reach overhead, and equip dip cups or sprays with an arm so workers don’t have to bend and reach to disinfect teats. Anti-fatigue, anti-slip flooring pads can be placed around the milking parlor or on any concrete floor.


Yoga for Farmers

One way to battle these injuries is by practicing yoga. Cornell University Cooperative Extension has developed a program for farmers with certified yoga instructor Lana Heintjes.

The goal of this practice is to gently soothe your muscles and lengthen the muscles that get tight from repetitive movement

Lana Heintjes

Yoga for Farmers: Farm Worker Repetitive Motion Injury Workshop with Lana Heintjes

Updated: April 2021

Learn more

This video is provided for informational and educational purposes only. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the views of CDC/NIOSH or any other funders.



UMASH has developed the following repetitive motion prevention fact sheets and posters for farmers, farmworkers, and producers. These are high resolution pdfs – ready to print and hang!