Translator: Tanya Cushman
Reviewer: Peter van de Ven Buenos días. Good morning. Our human body, our human body, our physiology – the bones, the muscles, the ligaments, the tendons, the organs, the complex nervous system – was selected out over millions
and millions of years in an environment that is radically
different than which we live in now. Only a few thousand years ago – that’s a blink of an eye
in evolutionary history – we started going from
hunter-gatherers to farmers. Just two hundred years ago,
we started the industrial revolution. We are now in the information
and technology revolution. But I suggest that in many ways this body that was designed to run,
to climb, to hunt and to gather in many ways has not yet adapted very well
to these rapidly changing environments. First of all, this body was designed
to work best in the upright posture. Now, keep this in mind
as we go through this. I’m a family physician
that works in the Pajaro Valley. A lot of my patients
either pick strawberries or raspberries. The strawberry picker
often works six days a week, eight hours a day, sometimes ten,
sometimes twelve hours a day. They can often pick enough strawberries
to fill up to 120 boxes, sometimes 130, and each box upwards of 150 strawberries. That could be, in some days, 17,000, 20,000 strawberries
picked in a single day. The problem is that these strawberries
are not picked in the upright posture; they are picked stooped over, and our bodies are just not designed
to do that for that long. You don’t need to be a physiatrist,
a physical therapist, to realize that there’s going to be
a tremendous amount of damage that’s going to happen
to this physical body from this work that these workers
are asked to do. Let’s go over some of these problems. We’ll start with the wrist. Bending over all this time
using your wrist, you get this so-called overuse syndrome. Basically what that is is that your ligaments and tendons
and cartilage and muscles are overused, and they start to tear microscopically, and the body tries to fix it, so it sends a lot of blood
and cells to the area, and that’s a process called inflammation. The problem with the inflammation
is that swelling comes with inflammation, and in the wrist, they often develop
something called carpal tunnel syndrome. That basically has to do
with the bones, the carpal bones, that help to make up the wrist and a fascia that goes underneath it, and through this tunnel that it makes,
some nerves go through there. One of the nerves
is called the median nerve, which enervates these three fingers
and part of that one. When that starts to get compressed
from the swelling, you start to get weakness, you start to lose the opposable thumb. You’ll see their hand
starts to go flat here, and it causes a lot of pain. Some of them can’t even
hold a glass of water. You even get pain that shoot
up the shoulder; it’s very disabling. Let’s move up to the elbows. They often get something
called tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow, and I suggest it’s not from golfing: you’ve got to call it
strawberry-pickers elbow. Basically, what’s happening there
is the muscles that do this connect here, the muscles that do that
connect here through tendons, and once again, through overuse
and tearing of the structures, you develop a lot of pain
and inflammation. Pretty soon you have
a really weak grip strength plus pain. Now let’s go to the back
where the majority of the problems happen. You develop something
called the myofascial pain syndrome. It’s very disabling. Basically, you have these long muscles that run from the base of the head
all the way down to the sacrum – your bottom, basically – and through bending over
for all these hours, you create a lot of strain
in the muscles, a lot of tears, and this causes pain, which causes spasm, which causes more pain,
which causes more spasm. Pretty soon you have
these bundled up, knotted up muscles. And you touch the back
of some of these farmworkers – it feels like they have rods
running up and down their back. It’s not normal. Even after they stop working, sometimes even for decades,
they can still continue to have this pain. Now imagine this happening
in your bottom area, the gluts. The problem when it happens there is you have a big nerve
that runs through there to the bottom, called the sciatic nerve. If you start to compress that nerve, you can get shooting pains that go down, and in severe cases, you could compress it so much
that you start to get weakness. Another very disabling problem. And then the knees,
the ankles and the hands. It’s just wear and tear on the cartilage. You develop degenerative
joint disease, arthritis, decades before anybody else would. So, basically, this work is very inhumane. It’s the environment
that we ask these workers to be in. They’re set up for failure. Perhaps we could come up
with some better ways to treat them. Perhaps, maybe, for four hours
you do strawberry picking, four hours do raspberries so you can kind of be upright
instead of being down the whole time. Perhaps we can shorten the work hour, maybe three hours in the morning,
three hours in the afternoon, longer breaks, longer lunch. Basically give them a chance to recover. I’m running out of time, but I would’ve liked to talk about
pesticides, diabetes and depression – other huge problems out there. I’d just like to end by saying
that my father was a mushroom picker. He died when I was nine years old, and I never had the chance to thank him for all the hard work and sacrifice
that he went through so that his family could have
opportunities that he never got. And likewise, I’d like to thank
the farmworkers that are here, the farmworkers that are out there
right now in the Pajaro Valley picking strawberries in very hot weather; I appreciate the work that they do
for their families and this country. Thank you. (Applause)

3 thoughts on “TEDxFruitvale – Flavio Cornejo – What Farmwork Does to A Body”

  1. You are talking about industrial farming, not real farming. OSHA needs to get involved to create new ways to harvest IF we get stuck with industrial farming because of city people.

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