History of Ergonomics: Ergonomic Nightmares of the Past

I came across a recent blog by English professor Michael Sheehan about the entries for “cramp” in a 1923 American dictionary.  Some of the occupational injuries listed are pretty archaic, but is in an interesting glimpse at the changing nature of work and the evolution of economies and occupational safety.

For example, ‘telegrapher’s cramp’ is now totally unheard of…but carpal tunnel syndrome as an all too familiar term.  Another example, we don’t hear too much talk of ‘seamstresses cramp’ in America anymore…but I’m sure it’s a huge problem in other parts of the world.

‘auctioneers’ cramp: a professional neurosis affecting mainly the left side of the orbuicularis oris muscle.

‘compositors’ cramp: an occupation neurosis of the thumb and fingers of compositors, resembling writers’ cramp.

‘hammermans’ cramp: a spasmodic affection of the muscles of the entire arm.

‘hephestic cramp: hammerman’s cramp.

‘seamstresses’ cramp: a neurosis of sewing-women, resembling writers’ cramp.

‘shaving cramp: a neurosis of the hands of barbers resembling writers’ cramp.

‘telegraphers’ cramp: a neurosis resembling writers’ cramp, seen in telegraphers.

‘watchmakers’ cramp: a spasm of the finger muscles peculiar to watchmakers.

‘writers’ cramp: an occupation neurosis due to excessive writing. It is marked by spasmodic contraction of the muscles of the fingers, hand, and forearm, together with neuralgic pain therein. It comes on whenever an attempt is made to write.

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