What are Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)?

by Spectrum Wellness

Musculoskeletal Disorders, otherwise known as MSDs or MSKs, affect the movement of the human body and the musculoskeletal system (e.g. muscles, nerves, ligaments etc.). It is an issue that cost Great Britain 8.8 million work days and £5 billion in 2015-16. (1)

These disorders come into the picture when employees, at least in the work scenario, expose themselves to ergonomic risk factors such as poor posture paired with repetition and force. Individual-related risk factors also play an equally important role in determining the development of an MSD.

In most cases, these individuals are not aware of the negative effects these practices are having on them until the pain arrives. As in most cases prevention is better than cure. However, the terms MSK or MSD are alien to a majority of the population and due to the lack of this knowledge, they continue putting themselves in situations that pose a high number of these risks.

So, let’s try to gain a better understanding of MSDs through the two major perspectives: Work and The Individual.

The basic principle behind the development of an MSD is the over exertion of the human body when the rate of recovery cannot catch up to repair the body as needed. When the fatigue builds up, it leads to an MSD.

Many tasks involve high repetition. Depending on the nature of work, these tasks may be controlled with hourly or daily targets. This repetition may often be combined with uncomfortable posture and heavy weights. When muscle exertion increases to deal with these tasks, this leads to build up in fatigue.

Your joints work best when they move within the mid-range of the motion. If the tasks require employees to move their joints outside this mid-range for sustained periods of time without enough time for recovery, this also leads to musculoskeletal disorders.

In addition to the factors that are work related, we also need to consider those factors that arise from individual personal practices.

Poor health habits such as smoking, excessive drinking, improper diet leading to obesity and others can move the individual to a physical condition that prevents them from being able to effectively handle the tasks they are required to do at work. This again can translate into development of MSDs.

Lack of physical fitness and hydration too can lead to musculoskeletal problems. A study conducted shows how those who lead an active and healthy lifestyle face lower risks of MSDs. (3)

As mentioned earlier, to prevent fatigue from building up, the individual’s recovery system needs to be competitive enough to repair the musculoskeletal system. This will not be possible if the individual is not getting enough rest and recovery. Depending on the nature of the employee’s work, he/she needs to gain adequate rest to recover from a day’s work.

By gaining a better understanding of what causes and what can prevent MSDs, we gain a better understanding of what MSDs are. As an employer, it is in your interest to make your employees aware of this real problem so that they can take necessary steps to personally keep themselves away from ergonomic risks. In addition to that, you may also decide to bring in outside help to assess and identify the MSD risk factors that may be present in your workplace to modify and optimise existing systems and routines so that these risk factors are minimised.


The Definition and Causes of Musculoskeletal Disorders