Causes and Workplace Risks for Musculoskeletal Disorders

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) cost upwards of 55 billion dollars a year. As the leading cause of chronic, severe pain and physical disability, MSDs significantly impact many people. Treatments like surgery aren’t always effective, and people are left with lost time at work, potential disability, and a career change. Many factors in the workplace can contribute to the development of MSDs, like poor ergonomics. We’ll explore MSDs in more detail, along with steps you can take to prevent and resolve MSDs in your workforce.

What is a Musculoskeletal Disorder?

Musculoskeletal disorders are painful, inflammatory conditions that affect the muscles, joints, ligaments, nerves, and tendons that support the body’s skeletal system. These degenerative conditions impact normal activities and can make regular functioning difficult. Manual therapies, like Functionally Optimized Massage (FOM), pain medications, and surgery are all treatment options for MSDs.

Common Types of Musculoskeletal Disorders

  • Carpel Tunnel Syndrome

Caused by pressure on the median nerve in the wrist, carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful condition that affects about five percent of the working population.

  • Tendonitis

Tendonitis is inflammation of a tendon. A tendon is a thick, rope-like connective tissue cord connecting a muscle to the bone. This inflammation is typically quite painful.

  • Muscle and tendon strain

An injury to a muscle or tendon is called a strain or a pulled muscle. These injuries can range in severity from minor damage to a partial or complete tear.

  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) occurs when there is compression around the thoracic outlet, which is the space between the upper ribs and the collarbone. This condition can lead to pain, weakness, tingling in the arm and shoulder, and numb fingers.

Work-Related Risks Linked to Musculoskeletal Disorders

There are many musculoskeletal disorder causes. One of the riskiest factors in the workplace has to do with mindset. Employees who get the job done “no matter the cost” or who focus on accomplishment rather than safety have increased risks of MSDs. Part of this may come from workplace culture. If that is the case with your workplace, change needs to be made and sustained from the top down. Simply telling your workers to prioritize safety isn’t enough—an evaluation, including a questionnaire, training, and substantial efforts to improve safety, such as purchasing more equipment, need to be made.

Here are other risk factors for MSDs in the workplace.

  1. Excessive force
  2. Contact stress
  3. Vibration
  4. Extreme temperatures
  5. Awkward positions
  6. Repetitive motions

How Companies Should Address MSDs

Employers can play a positive role in reducing, eliminating, and treating MSDs among their employees. Not only does this lessen pain and suffering, but it will support productivity and morale across the company. And high company morale is linked to greater efficiency and better employee productivity. Start by asking, “What could lead to the development of a musculoskeletal disorder?” Taking steps to mitigate the risks of MSDs in your workplace will also reduce healthcare costs in the long run as MSDs are prevented, resolved, or lessened. Here are some ways that companies can address the risks of MSDs.

  1. Perform a safety evaluation of the workplace, including a written questionnaire for employees.

  2. Use the evaluation and questionnaire information to create a plan for addressing safety issues.

  3. For office workers, consider investing in ergonomic equipment such as:
    • Better, adjustable office chairs.

    •  Adjustable desks.

    • Standing desks.

    • Wrist and foot support.

    • Adjustable monitors.

The suggestions for workplaces with more physical aspects to their labor are similar to the ones for the office. Make workstations as accessible as possible to people of all heights so that no one is reaching or hunching during their work day.

  1. Use mechanical tools wherever possible to aid in the loading, unloading, and lifting of anything heavy or other aids like handles or hand slots in packaging.

  2. Consider adjustable height workstations.

  3. Arrange all tools so they are within easy reach of all employees.

  4. Distribute the burden of heavy work evenly to all employees.

  5. Conduct appropriate training around the recognition and prevention of MSDs.

  6. Consider onsite treatments like Functionally Optimized Massage to treat MSDs without surgery effectively.

The steps needed to address MSDs effectively are an investment you make directly into your workforce. The dividends include increased safety, health, productivity, lower workers’ compensation claims, and overall health care costs. If you’re ready to bring effective treatment for MSDs to your workplace, reach out to BioFunctional Health Solutions (BHS). We specialize in soft tissue treatment trusted by professional athletes, called Functionally Optimized Massage (FOM). It’s an evidence-based and technology-enabled treatment system used not just by professional athletes but by Fortune 500 companies. Our massage therapists come to your workplace and customize each treatment to your employees’ needs. FOM is a non-invasive treatment designed to reduce or resolve your employees’ pain sources. Expect your employees to have:

  1. An increase in engagement and productivity

  2. Lessened or eliminated pain

  3. Superior performance

  4. Increased morale

  5. Better mobility

  6. Lowered rates of stress and anxiety

If you’re ready to get started, reach out to us today! We’re here to help and answer any questions you might have.