Work Related Musculoskeletal Disorders

Work Related Musculoskeletal Disorders

Musculoskeletal disorders affect different parts of the body including muscles, joints, ligaments, nerves and tendons. Many work related musculoskeletal disorders develop with time and are as a result of the job itself or the working environment of the employee.  In addition, musculoskeletal   disorders can happen outside a patient work place. The disorder can result from playing, racing among other activities.  Fractures sustained when playing can result to such disorders.  Patients have different health problem including pains, minor aches, discomfort and other problems. The prevalence of work related musculoskeletal disorders is high.  Musculoskeletal disorders represent 31% of all work related diseases in the world.  This implies that musculoskeletal disorders are the most common work related diseases.  Work related musculoskeletal disorders are caused by various factors including strenuous movements, body posture, force, repetition etc (Kjuus, Wegerland, Waesterd, Viersted & Mehlum, 2009).

There are two aspects of the body posture that cause injuries in jobs that entail repetitive tasks. First, position of the body part that performs the actual job or the upper limb causes musculoskeletal disorder.  Jobs that need c repetitive movement of joints in the elbow, wrist and shoulder lead to pain in those areas. Second, the fixed position of the shoulders and neck can cause work related musculoskeletal disorder.  The neck and shoulder muscles contract and stay contracted to hold the position stable until the task is complete. The contracted muscle squeezes the blood vessels and prevents flow of blood to the hand and leads to two fold.  The neck and shoulder muscles become fatigued resulting to pain.  Further, performing repetitive tasks exposes one to musculoskeletal disorders.  People who perform high repetitive jobs are more likely to suffer from work related musculoskeletal disorders.  This is because the jobs involve fixed body posture and force.

The works have   to maintain   the neck and shoulders in a fixed position and exert force and results to pain.  In addition, the pace of worker causes work related musculoskeletal disorders. The works do not have adequate time to rest between the cycles of a task if the job is involving.  The stress levels increase and result to muscle tension which leads to exhaustion and causes worked related musculoskeletal disorders (Wilkins, & Mackenzie, 2007). Health professionals should differentiate musculoskeletal disorders related to work and those not in order to provide appropriate treatment to patients and prevent musculoskeletal disorders. Differentiating a work related musculoskeletal disorder from a non work related musculoskeletal disorder is difficult and has affected provision of medical treatment to patients.

Health care providers find it hard to determine work related musculoskeletal disorders and non work related musculoskeletal disorders.  They are not sure of the patents physical activity outside the workplace and at home.  Patients may get injured while exercising or doing other things outside the workplace and hence present similar symptoms to symptoms of work related musculoskeletal disorders.  Health care professionals use standard diagnostic tests to diagnose work related musculoskeletal disorders and non musculoskeletal disorders.  Some of the diagnostic tests used include x- rays, medical imaging and CT scans etc.  The diagnostic tests help determine the level of injury, but not pain.  Lack of differential tests for non work related musculoskeletal disorder and work related musculoskeletal disorders have affected patient treatment. The providers are unable to determine whether the patient’s disorder is due to work or not.

Also, the information provided by the patient concerning the cause of the pain and injury might differ with test results. This hinders the professionals from determining the cause of the pain. This was evidenced in a study conducted by Kjuus, Wegerland, Waesterd, Viersted, Mehlum (2009). They compared neck, shoulder and arm pain reported by patients with expert assessment.  The patients provided accurate information concerning the cause of the pain. However, the expert assessment and patient reporting about the pain different in cases considered non work related during assessment.  The agreement depended on definition of the case and criteria used by the experts and patients (Wilkins, & Mackenzie, 2007).For example, a health professional might find it hard to determine whether the employee injury is as a result of working in the warehouse or outside the warehouse.

The professional is unable to perform a differential test to determine whether the chronic pain on the lower back is due to lifting heavy boxes or other physical activities outside the workplace(Wilkins, & Mackenzie, 2007). Several factors should be included when determining whether a musculoskeletal disorder is work related.  The factors include the nature of job and work environment.  The nature of job increases the risk of having a musculoskeletal disorder.  People who do heavy work including lifting heavy objects are more likely to suffer from musculoskeletal disorders compared to those who do not.  Examining the nature of job the patient does tells a lot about the cause of the musculoskeletal disorder.   One should determine the patient’s body position when working.  The position of the body can cause pain by exerting force.  One should determine whether the body position is foxed or constrained.

In addition,   one should determine whether the job is repetitive as doing repetitive jobs causes pain and injuries due to exertion of force and contraction of the muscles.  Additionally, one should determine the pace of the job as jobs that do not allow enough recovery between movement cause pains.  Lastly, the workplace design can affect the worker and result to work related musculoskeletal disorders.   Employers are supposed to fit the workplace design   to the employee.  They should evaluate the workplace to determine sources of workplace musculoskeletal disorders.  A poor work place design affects the worker as the employer does not fit the employee body size, shape and working position. Therefore, including the factors will provide enough information to diagnose work related musculoskeletal disorders(Darragh, Huddleston & King, 2009).


Darragh, A., Huddleston, W., & King, P. (2009). Work-Related Musculoskeletal Injuries and Disorders among Occupational and Physical Therapists. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 63(3), 351-62. 1728549341

Mehlum, I., Veiersted, K., Wærsted, M., Wergeland, E., & Kjuus, H.. (2009). Self-reported versus expert-assessed work-relatedness of pain in the neck, shoulder, and arm. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health, 35(3), 222-32. 1750687461

Wilkins, K  & Mackenzie, S.G. (2007). Work injuries. Health Reports, 18(3), 1-18.  1321978861

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