Musculoskeletal Disorders

Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD)

What are musculoskeletal disorders?

Musculoskeletal disorders is a broad umbrella term to include a wide variety of disorders involving the joints and the soft tissues involved in moving those joints. It involves the muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints. The term includes such diverse problems as low back pain, repetitive strain injuries of various sorts and joint injuries.

What causes MSD?

The causes include; poor posture, repetitive movements, manual handling, awkward movements, forceful hand applications, direct mechanical pressure on body tissue, vibrations and cold work environment. Some types of disorders are associated with particular tasks and occupations.

What are the most common MSDs?

On a European level:

  • 30% of workers complain of backache.
  • Seventeen per cent complain of muscular pains in arms and legs.
  • Forty-five per cent report painful or tiring position. There is strong evidence that MSD are mainly work-related.
  • 33% of workers report handling heavy loads in work.

Lifting heavy weights in an

improper manner can cause MSD.

Who is most at risk from MSDs?

Manual workers, both skilled and unskilled are most at risk.

Upper limb disorders affect women workers more than men. Older workers report more MSD problems at work. This is because many older workers will have spent more time working in MSD risky situations. In addition, jobs are generally designed for young and healthy male workers.

Which sectors of employment are most at risk from MSD?

The following industries at most at risk:

Agriculture, forestry and fisheries, manufacturing and mining, machine operators, craft workers, tailors, construction, desk bound workers, loaders and unloaders.

How can MSD be prevented?

  • Risk factors in the workplace must be identified and then practical measures must be taken to reduce the level of risk.
  • Attention should be paid to all possible risk factors, especially as a combination of factors may be creating the risk.
  • Employees should be consulted and informed on preventative measures.
  • Give appropriate instructions to workers.
  • Adapt to technical progress.

How should MSD be treated?

Since MSD is a broad umbrella label, treatment will be determined on the basis of an exact diagnosis. Most cases can be satisfactorily dealt with by your GP. Chartered physiotherapists can be most helpful in the assessment and treatment of these disorders.

Occasionally, it may be necessary for your GP to refer you to see a specialist such as a consultant in orthopaedics or rheumatology.

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