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Musculoskeletal Injuries (MSI)

According to WebMD, Musculoskeletal Injuries (MSI) affect your muscles, tendons, nerves, cartilage, joints, and spinal discs. Musculoskeletal injuries are one of the most common occupational problems that affect millions of workers across America and cost companies billions of dollars in injury claims, investigations and worker productivity. Coping with these injuries helps improve workers’ lives although it also makes sense from a business point of view.

Musculoskeletal Injuries usually affect the back, neck, shoulders and upper limbs, but can also affect the lower limbs. They include any damage or disorder of the joints and other tissues. Health problems range from minor discomfort and pain to more serious medical conditions that require you to apply for a leave of work and even receive medical treatment. In more chronic cases, they can result in disability and the need to stop working.

In the United States, musculoskeletal injuries are responsible for 55% of women’s accidents, but only 42% of men’s accidents. In the US, in a survey of 30,074 workers, women reported pain more frequently in the upper back, while men complained mostly of their lower back. According to the CDC, a greater proportion of women than men suffer from problems in almost all areas of the body but especially in the upper limbs.

Causes of Musculoskeletal Injuries

Most work-related injuries or disorders develop over time. Normally, there is no single cause of MSIs, but there are several factors that work together. Physical causes and organizational risk factors include:

  • Repetitive or forced movements
  • Strange or static postures
  • Vibrations, poor lighting or cold work environments
  • Working at an unusual pace
  • Standing or sitting for a long time in the same position
  • Carrying items, especially when stopping and turning

There is increasing data linking MSIs with psychosocial risk factors (especially combined with physical risks), including high level of work expectations, complacency, low autonomy and poor job satisfaction.


There is no single solution and in case of serious or unusual problems, professional advice may be necessary. However, many solutions are easy and inexpensive, such as providing a truck to handle merchandise or change the position or elevation of commonly accessible items in an office. To address musculoskeletal injuries, managers should use a combination of:

  • Risk assessment: adopt a holistic approach, assessing and addressing all causes.
  • Employee participation: include staff and their representatives in discussions about possible problems and solutions.

Preventive actions could include changes in:

  • Workplace design: adapt the working areas to improve body position
  • Equipment: make sure you have an ergonomic design and suitable for tasks
  • Workers: improve risk awareness, provide training on good working methods
  • Tasks: change work methods or tools
  • Management: plan to avoid repetitive work or work in poor postures for a long time, breaks to rest, rotate jobs or reassign work
  • Organizational factors: develop a policy on musculoskeletal injuries

The health monitoring, rehabilitation and reintegration of workers who have already suffered from musculoskeletal injuries needs to be implemented in how management approaches musculoskeletal injuries to prevent recurrence. As musculoskeletal injuries are becoming more common in the workplace, companies need to come up with sophisticated policies and solutions.

Looking to increase awareness in your company?  Check out our MSI program!

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