Musculoskeletal disorders

Musculoskeletal disorders

What are musculoskeletal disorders?

The term MSD covers any injury, damage or disorder of the joints or other tissues in the upper/lower limbs or the back.

Upper limb disorders (ULDs) can affect any part of the arm from the fingers to the shoulder or neck, and can involve muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves and blood supply. 

Symptoms include pain, aching, tingling, tenderness, burning sensation, numbness, redness or swelling. ULDs also include Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI).  ULDs are frequently caused or made worse by work. 

Common causes of ULDs are:

  • repetitive work
  • tasks involving sustained or excessive force
  • carrying out tasks for prolonged periods and/or at a fast pace
  • poor working environment and organisation.

Lower limb disorders (LLDs) are disorders involving the hips, legs, knees, ankles or feet.  Symptoms can include pain, swelling and problems with moving. 

Common causes of LLDs are:

  • repetitive kneeling and/or squatting
  • fixed postures (e.g. standing) for long periods
  • frequent jumping from a height

Relevant legislation

Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992

Resources and links

HSE publication: Musculoskeletal disorders in Great Britain 2013

TUC publication: "Hazards at Work: Organising for safe and healthy workplaces". 
See section on work-related upper limb disorders.

European Agency for Safety and Health at Work

Health and Safety Authority publication:
Guidance on the prevention and management of MSDs in the workplace’