Understanding Musculoskeletal Disorders: Risk Factors Resulting from Work Tasks

 In Ergonomics

The goal in ergonomics is to eliminate discomfort and protect from bodily harm while performing work tasks. When we think of ergonomic devices that will offer such protection, we may think of adjustable lifts and multi-axis work positioning devices. Such devices are excellent examples of common ergonomic technology used in the modern workplace today, that offer work positioning flexibility and protect against “Musculoskeletal Disorders.” (MSD).

What Are Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)?

MSDs are injuries or disorders that affect the human body’s musculoskeletal system. The musculoskeletal system is any part of the human body involving muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, discs, blood vessels, etc.

Some very common examples of musculoskeletal disorders are:

Musculoskeletal Disorders Risk Factors

The risk factors for developing an MSD fall into three basic categories:

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Tendonitis
  • Muscle / Tendon strain
  • Ligament Sprain
  • Tension Neck Syndrome
  • Thoracic Outlet Compression
  • Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
  • Epicondylitis
  • Radial Tunnel Syndrome
  • Digital Neuritis
  • Trigger Finger / Thumb
  • DeQuervain’s Syndrome
  • Mechanical Back Syndrome
  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Ruptured / Herniated Disc

High Repetitions – Many work cycles are repetitive and are often driven by production goals. High task repetition, when combined with other risk factors such as excessive force or awkward postures, can contribute to the formation of MSDs.

Forceful Exertions – Many work activities require large force on the human body. Muscle tension increases in response to high force demands, increasing the associated fatigue that can lead to MSD.

Repetitive or Sustained Awkward PosturesAwkward postures place excessive force on joints and overloads the muscles and tendons around the affected joint. Joints of the body are most efficient when they operate closest to the mid-range motion of the joint. The risk of developing an MSD is increased when joints are worked outside of this mid-range repetitively or for sustained periods without adequate recovery time.

Besides these general risk factors, there are individually based risk factors. Some examples are:

Poor Health (nutrition, fitness, etc.) – A poor level of physical fitness may be reflected in not being able to climb one flight of stairs without being out of breath. Workers who smoke, drink excessively, are obese, or exhibit numerous other poor health habits are putting themselves at risk for chronic diseases but also for MSDs.

Poor Work Practices – Workers who use poor work practices, body mechanics, or lifting techniques, introduce unnecessary strain or fatigue on their body that can contribute to MSDs.

Poor Rest and Recovery Periods – Workers who do not receive individual adequate rest and recuperation are at greater risk to develop MSDs.


Today there are a broad range of ergonomic solutions to minimize the potential factors for developing an MSD. Ergonomically engineered solutions developed by Ergotronix will mitigate many of these risk factors in your workplace. When you think of ergonomics, think Ergotronix, as they can help you find a solution for your workplace problems.

Recommended Posts
Ergonomic Designs: Positions and MovementErgonomic Procedures Power Tools