Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders

Learn about work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSDs), their causes and how you can prevent or minimise them in the workplace.

Workplace ergonomics deals with manual lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling of heavy loads, over-exertion, awkward postures and repetitive actions, which can lead to the development of WRMSDs. WRMSDs are characterised by discomfort, impairment, disability, or persistent pains in joints, muscles, tendons or other soft tissues. 

WRMSDs can affect employees in the industrial, commercial, healthcare, hospitality and service sectors, as well as offices and other workplaces. Occupations that are more susceptible to WRMSDs include machine operators, parts assembly workers, movers, nurses, warehouse workers, stock keepers, computer users, typists and musicians.

 

Common Musculoskeletal Disorders and Causes

Most people experience aches or pains in the affected body parts. The severity of the symptoms varies depending on exposure.

The following table shows some WRMSDs and their causes:

WRMSD

Causes(s)

Low back pain

  • Heavy lifting, carrying or pushing, sudden overloads, repetitive loading
  • Awkward posture during work e.g. twisting/ side bending of body

Carpal tunnel syndrome (pain, numbness and/or tingling in fingers)

  • Frequent and repetitive hand activity such as typing, hammering and polishing

De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis (pain in the wrist)

  • Forceful gripping or hand twisting

Epicondylitis (inflammation of the elbow tendon)

  • Frequent use of screwdriver, hammering, meat cutting

Neck and shoulder pain

  • Prolonged static bend posture or twisting of neck e.g. using telephone, doing data-entry
  • Hands extended above head e.g. overhead maintenance/ repair work

 

 

 

Preventing Musculoskeletal Disorders

Some common workplace risk factors associated with WRMSDs and their preventive measures are discussed below.

Workplace Risk Factor

Preventive Measure(s)

Heavy loads (e.g. carrying heavy objects over long distances)

  • Apply correct lifting techniques
  • Use mechanical tool e.g. hand trolley

Awkward postures (e.g. twisting about the waist)

  • Have adjustable workstations/ equipment
  • Use ergonomically designed hand tools

Static postures (e.g. standing or sitting in same position for long period)

  • Provide anti-fatigue mats to stand
  • Change position or stretch when tired

Repetitive actions (e.g. packing goods along process lines)

  • Take rest breaks at regular intervals
  • Do simple stretching exercises

Whole body vibration (e.g. driving heavy vehicles)

  • Perform regular maintenance of vehicle suspension systems
  • Inflate tyres at correct air pressure

 

To learn more about WRMSDs and their prevention, you can refer to the WSH Guidelines on Improving Ergonomics in the Workplace.

 

For More Information

Refer to the following resources: