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Musculoskeletal Disorder (MSD)

Most work-related MSDs develop over time and are caused either by the work itself or by the employees' working environment. They can also result from accidents, e.g. fractures and dislocations. Typically, MSDs affect the back, neck, shoulders and upper limbs; less often they affect the lower limbs.

Health problems range from discomfort, minor aches and pains, to more serious medical conditions requiring time off work and even medical treatment. In more chronic cases, treatment and recovery are often unsatisfactory - the result could be permanent disability and loss of employment.

Many problems can be prevented or greatly reduced by complying with existing safety and health law and following guidance on good practice. This includes assessing the work tasks, putting in place preventive measures, and checking that these measures stay effective.

Key facts:

  • Musculoskeletal disorders are the most common work – related health problems in the EU-27: 25% of European workers complain of backache and 23% of muscular pains;
  • 62% of workers in the EU-27 are exposed a quarter of the time or more to repetitive hand and arm movements; 46% to painful or tiring positions; 35% to carrying or moving heavy loads;
    Factors that can contribute - either individually or in combination - to the development of MSDs


  • using force - lifting, carrying, pulling, pushing
  • repetition of movements - typing, painting
  • awkward and static posture - prolonged standing and sitting, working with hands above your shoulders
  • contact pressure - local compression of tools
  • vibration - whole body and hand-arm
  • cold working environments


  • high work demand
  • lack of control over work
  • low job satisfaction
  • repetitive work
  • high pace of work
  • time pressure
  • lack of support from colleagues and managers


  • prior medical history
  • physical capacity
  • age
  • smoking
  • obesity

Importantly there are also links between MSD’s and depression. If you believe that you are suffering from depression with MSD like symptoms or that you believe the MSD’s have caused your depression please inform your line manager and request a referral to Occupational Health at: .

There are additional sites referenced which provide further information and resources on what is an MSD and how to prevent and manage them.

Manual Handling

Back Pain

Musculoskeletel Disorders


Available on the University campus at the Sports Centre via appointment. There is a fee involved. For more information or to make an appointment contact: