Musculoskeletal disorders

During the 18th Century, it was discovered that certain violent, irregular motions and unnatural postures can cause the mechanics of the human body to become impaired. From this, serious illness can develop. It wasn’t until the 20th century that the need to act on reducing these diseases (now known as musculoskeletal disorders, MSDs) was recognised.

Biomechanics uses the laws of physics and engineering concepts to describe the movement of body parts and the forces acting on them during normal daily activities.

Although these movements and forces enable workers to be able to perform jobs, when they over-stress the body they may cause MSDs.

When daily fatigue or micro-trauma to soft tissues overwork a persons recovery system, health can become affect and over time MSDs will eventually form.

Fatigue verses recovery curve 

Causes of MSDs

Poor musculoskeletal health can affect all industries, from business to construction. There are risks to workers who are desk-bound, just as there are to workers in building trades.

MSDs can be made worse or caused by work. Health problems can vary from mild aches and pains to more serious medical conditions requiring time off work or medical treatment.

It’s important to remember that MSDs are not just caused by or related to work. When managing and dealing with health issues, do not assume that work is the main contributory factor or is the root cause. Workers may already be at risk due to their personal lives.

These factors, individually or collectively can cause MSDs or increase the likelihood of them developing:

  • domestic activities or certain hobbies
  • certain medical conditions
  • previous accidents or incidents
  • pregnancy
  • age-related degeneration.

In these circumstances, it may be worth accessing help from occupational health (OH) professionals. They may already work in the organisation, but they will be able to assist with assessing the individual’s needs by carrying out relevant assessments.

In the workplace, MSDs are often caused by occupational activities that involve:

  • manual handling of heavy loads
  • exerting high-intensity forces
  • unfavourable postures
  • monotonous/repetitive tasks
  • application of vibration
  • physical environmental conditions
  • psychosocial factors.