Hand Arm Vibration
It is well known that exposure to prolonged (i.e. for several years) exposure to vibration is harmful, and can cause various types of hand dysfunctions. Most common are loss of sensibility, blanching, and decreased grip force in the hands—that is, Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS).
The tendency to develop vibration injuries in the hands varies significantly between individuals; some get these symptoms after a few years of vibration exposure, while others can work for decades without problems.
When a vibration injury is fully developed, it is irreversible. The affected person will, in other words, not recover even if the vibration exposure ceases. At this point it cannot be cured by medical or surgical means.
Therefore, it is extremely important to detect incipient vibration damage while prophylactic measures are still effective. It might, for example, be possible to change tools or methods in order to prevent irreversible vibration injury.
Vibration injuries are common in many industries with vibration exposure, such as construction, cutting and sheet metal work, auto repair, welding and electrical work. The problems are also common occupations where the hands are exposed to very high-frequency vibrations, such as dental technicians and dentists.
The injuries often impact the working-age population (young or middle-aged men) and the consequences can be very serious. Damage to the nerves of the hand leads to reduced dexterity and impaired fine-motor skills (“clumsiness”), and, in some cases, severe pain and cramps.
Finger blanching is usually triggered by exposure to a humid or cold environment and can be extremely painful.
HAVS is preventable, but once the damage is done it is permanent. HAVS is serious and disabling, and nearly 2 million people are at risk. Damage from HAVS can include the inability to do fine work and cold can trigger painful finger blanching attacks.