Musculoskeletal Disorders in the Workplace
Musculoskeletal disorders are very frequent cause of sickness absence and reduced productivity in the developed world. The most common forms leading to an occupational health referral are back pain and work-related upper limb disorders. The exact cause is often unclear, but types of musculoskeletal disorder occur more commonly in certain roles.
A 2009 workforce study in the UK showed 9.3 million working days lost due to musculoskeletal disorders:
- 3.5 million were due to back problems
- 3.8 million work next/upper limb problems
- 2 million lower limb problems
Each person suffering with these problems was absent for an average of 17 working days, equating to 0.4 days for every working person in the country
For example, back pain is more commonly found in roles which involve:
- Heavy manual labour
- Manual handling in awkward places (like delivery work)
- Repetitive tasks (such as manual packing of goods)
- Sitting at a workstation for a long period of time if not correctly arranged or adjusted
- Driving long distances or over rough ground
- Operating heavy equipment with whole body vibration
- Working beyond normal abilities and limits and went physically overtired
- Pushing, pulling or dragging loads which required excessive force
Within Infinity Occupational Health we assess musculoskeletal pain with a "biopsychosocial" approach.
This takes into account the fact that the persistence of symptoms and a return to work is heavily influenced not justified medical factors but by attitudes and beliefs, psychological distress, illness behaviour and social factors (for example the attitude of friends and family).
We try and work with employees with a motivational approach in order to minimise barriers to a potential return to work and productivity and also give advice to employers regarding potential adjustments which may help.
In the majority of cases of non-specific musculoskeletal illness, an early return to work is beneficial and usually medically justifiable.
Further useful information can be found at: HSE musculoskeletal disorders