Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)
HSE’s main focus is on health and safety issues related to pain and disorders caused by the work a person does, whether this occurs in the neck, shoulders and arms (Upper Limbs), back, or hips, knees and ankles and feet (Lower Limbs). These pages also cover manual handling and the impact of using display screen equipment.
Key messages about MSDs are:
- you can do things to prevent or minimise MSDs;
- the prevention measures are cost effective;
- you cannot prevent all MSDs, so early reporting of symptoms, proper treatment and suitable rehabilitation is essential.
Risk factors causing MSDs can be found in virtually every workplace from commerce to agriculture, health services to construction.
Most people have back pain at some time. Usually the pain is not caused by anything serious and it settles within a matter of days or weeks.
Medical evidence from the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Faculty of Occupational Medicine focuses on three key messages for sufferers to deal with back pain:
- Stay active
- Try simple pain relief
- If you need it, seek advice
For some examples of what others have done to reduce the incidence of back pain at work and how organisations have worked to rehabilitate sufferers and get them back at work, go to the 'case studies' section.
For information to help employers, managers and employees prevent and manage the effects of back pain in the workplace visit the back pain section.
Upper limb disorders (ULDs)
The term upper limb disorders (ULDs) is used as an umbrella term for a range of disorders of the hand, wrist, arm, shoulder and neck. It covers those conditions, with specific medical diagnoses (eg frozen shoulder, carpal tunnel syndrome), and other conditions (often called ‘repetitive strain injury’ or RSI) where there is pain without specific symptoms. Symptoms may include pain, swelling and difficulty moving.
For information to help employers, managers and employees prevent and manage the effects of ULDs in the workplace visit the ULD section.
Lower limb disorders (LLDs)
Lower limb disorder (LLD) is used for a range of disorders of the hips, legs, knees, ankles and feet. It covers those conditions with specific medical diagnoses (eg osteoarthritis of the knee and hip), and other conditions where there is pain without specific symptoms. Symptoms may include pain, swelling and difficulty moving.
For information to help employers, managers and employees prevent and manage the effects of LLDs in the workplace visit the LLD section.
Display screen equipment (DSE)
DSE includes all the potential issues that may result from using display screen equipment, which used to be referred to as VDUs (visual display units) and includes use of computer equipment in both the workplace and at home if you are a home-worker. ULDs, headaches and visual problems can all be associated with working at a poorly designed workstation.
For information to help employers, managers and employees prevent and manage the effects of risks of working with DSE visit the DSE section.
Manual handling covers a wide variety of tasks including lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling and carrying. Injuries can occur almost anywhere, when people are at work or at home, and for many reasons like heavy loads or awkward postures. In addition, previous or existing injury can increase the risk.
Early reporting of symptoms, proper treatment and suitable return to work plans can help most people recover from their injuries and return to work. However some people may need to take longer periods off work and possibly even leave work entirely. The injured person may find that their lifestyle, leisure activities, ability to sleep and job prospects are affected.
For information to help employers, managers and employees prevent and manage the effects of risks of manual handling in the workplace visit the Manual Handling section.
More information about MSDs
- Manual handling at work: A brief guide
- Managing upper limb disorders in the workplace
- Manual handling assessment charts
- Risk assessment of pushing and pulling (RAPP) tool
- Making the best use of lifting and handling aids