Work-Related Musculoskeletal Injuries

Every year millions of workers are affected by work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).  These aches and pains can have a debilitating effect on the worker and his or her family.  MSDs cover a large range of health problems, including back pain/injuries and work-related upper limb injuries, commonly known as repetitive strain injuries.  Lower limbs can also be affected as well.

Organizational causes of MSDs include the pace and monotony of work.  The physical causes of MSDs include the following:

  • handling loads
  • poor posture
  • making repetitive movements

Lower Back Disorders

Lower back disorders include spinal disc problems such as hernias, muscles and soft tissue injuries.  Many studies show poor working environments also contribute to lower back problems either in a healthy back or even accelerate deterioration in a damaged back.  There is also growing evidence these days that link psychosocial factors, such as low job satisfaction, with lower back problems.

Work-related neck and upper limb problems tend to develop over time as a result of repetitive actions, such as typing.  These types of injuries can affect the neck, shoulders and upper limbs.  Some of these injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrist, have well-defined signs and symptoms.

How to Stay Safe

Employers are responsible for looking for workplace risks and then implementing the prevention measures to either reduce or eliminate them.  For example, employers should provide important information and training on the use of equipment and on correct using and handling techniques.


In manual work, protect yourself by using the correct handling techniques.  Before lifting a load, you should plan and prepare the task.  Make sure you do the following:

  • Know where you are going.
  • The area around the work is clear of obstacles.
  • Doors are open and there is nothing on the floor that could cause an accident.
  • If you are lifting with someone else, both of you should know what you’re doing before you start.

You should adopt a good technique when lifting the load, such as:

  • Put your feet around and your body over the load.
  • Use the muscles of your legs when lifting.
  • Straighten your back.
  • Pull the load as closely to your body as possible.
  • Lift and carry the load with straight arms.

To learn more about ergonomics in the workforce, check out OSHAcademy course 711: Introduction to Ergonomics.