Muscular skeletal problems

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In wealthy countries, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are common attributes of a loss to national productivity and premature retirements (Schofield, Kelly, Shrestha, Callander, Passey & Percival, 2012). MSDs, particularly disorders of the back, and upper and lower limbs are some of commonest causes of occupational ill health in the UK (Health and Safety Executive, 2020), and other European countries such as Spain (Martín, Romero‐Saldaña, Del Cerro, Alonso‐Safont, Molina‐Recio, & Monroy, 2019). In the UK alone, during 2018/19, almost seven million working days were lost due to work-related musculoskeletal disorders (Labour Force survey, 2019). MSDs are prevalent in all sectors, but it is in the construction industry, and among health and social care professions, that significantly higher than average rates are to be found, and sedentary occupations are also contributing significantly to these figures (Dianat, Kord, Yahyazade, Karimi & Stedmond, 2015). Outside of work, there are contributory factors, such as taking part in sport or home activities. But also levels of fitness, and health and psychosocial factors such as financial worries, lack of control at work, stress and depression are also implicated. An MSD can consequently be the direct result of the work someone is employed to do, or may be a pre-existing condition that becomes subsequently aggravated by further exposure to risky working practices. Stress can also increase severity of perceived and actual pain and discomfort. And, while the exact mechanisms are still not fully understood, stress is thought to alter our perceptions in terms our ability to cope, as well as intensifying muscle tension (Sobeih, Salem, M.ASCE, Geraidy, Abdelhamid, & Shell, 2009). Stress may cause people to engage in unhealthy behaviours such as excessive drinking or smoking; and could suppress the immune system and induce inflammation mechanisms (Lunt, Fox, Bowen, Higgins, Crozier, & Carter, 2007). Because multiple risk factors are involved, a holistic approach to managing musculoskeletal health is needed, and should be prioritised by all organizations in an effort to engender good overall health and well-being in their workforce. But importantly it could also enable workers to continue to work as they progress into older age (DWP, 2014). Healthy older workers who do not have MSDs can work well into their 60’s, so a focus on preventing work related conditions can extend working lives. The reality is of course that some employers adhere to the law and abide by regulations around Health and Safety but fail to embrace a holistic approach, and small businesses may lack the resources to provide comprehensive occupational health support for their workers, resulting in some employees having to reluctantly give up work prematurely (DWP, 2014).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook Series in Occupational Health Sciences.
Subtitle of host publicationHandbook on Management and Employment Practices.
EditorsPaula Brough, Elliroma Gardiner, Kevin Daniels
PublisherSpringer Nature Switzerland
Publication statusAcceptance date - 18 Dec 2020

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