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... are a group of painful disorders of muscles, tendons, and nerves. Carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, thoracic outlet syndrome, and tension neck syndrome are examples.

For the purpose of developing injury prevention strategies, many health and safety agencies include only disorders that develop gradually and are caused by the overuse of the above constituents of the musculoskeletal system. The traumatic injuries of the muscles, tendons and nerves due to accidents are not considered to be WMSDs or are considered separately. 

Work activities which are frequent and repetitive, or activities with awkward postures cause these disorders which may be painful during work or at rest.

Almost all work requires the use of the arms and hands. Therefore, most WMSD affect the hands, wrists, elbows, neck, and shoulders. Work using the legs can lead to WMSD of the legs, hips, ankles, and feet. Some back problems also result from repetitive activities



Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) are associated with these factors:

  • Work postures and movements.

  • Repetitiveness and pace of work.

  • Force of movements.

  • Vibration.

  • Temperature.

  • Lack of influence or control over one's job.

  • Increase pressure (e.g., to produce more).

  • Lack of or poor communication.

  • Monotonous tasks.

  • Perception of low support (e.g., manager or co-worker).

Certain workplace conditions, for example, the layout of the workstation influence these factors. In other situations, the psychosocial factors at the workplace may contribute to WMSDs. 

The table below outlines occupational risk factors and symptoms of the most common disorders of the upper body associated with WMSDs.


        Disorders                                         Occupational risk factors                                       Symptoms



Tendonitis/tenosynovitis                                        Repetitive wrist motions                                    Pain, weakness, swelling,burning 

                                                                                      Repetitive shoulder motions                             sensation or dull ache over affected                                                                                         Sustained hyper extension of arms                  area

                                                                                      Prolonged load on shoulders


Epicondylitis (elbow tendonitis)                           Repeated or forceful rotation of the                 Same symptoms as tendonitis

                                                                                      forearm and bending of the wrist 

                                                                                      at the same time


Carpal tunnel syndrome                                          Repetitive wrist motions                                    Pain, numbness, tingling, burning                                                                                                                                                                            sensations, wasting of muscles at                                                                                                                                                                              base of  thumb, dry palm


DeQuervain's disease                                              Repetitive hand twisting and                             Pain at the base of thumb

                                                                                     forceful gripping


Thoracic outlet syndrome                                      Prolonged shoulder flexion                                Pain, numbness, swelling of the                                                                                                Extending arms above shoulder height           hand

                                                                                     Carrying loads on the shoulder


Tension neck syndrome                                         Prolonged restricted posture                             Pain

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