What are MSDs? (And why you should already know about musculoskeletal disorders).

Your Quest: become informed on the social-economic impact of musculoskeletal disorders and injuries, and how to best avoid them.

You may have read our post about RSIs (Repetitive Strain Injuries) and already know at least a little bit about what an MSD (Musculoskeletal Disorder) is. Just for clarification, they are also termed Musculoskeletal disease, musculoskeletal syndrome, skeletal pain syndrome, or just MSD. It was with your best interests in mind that we decided to explore further into what MSDs are and how to prevent them. 

After doing some quick searching, we found how great the impact MSDs have had on our society. According to a 2016 study, every one in two adults was diagnosed with a musculoskeletal condition. That could be ranging from slight neck pain, to excruciating carpal tunnel syndrome. 

Back Pain Green Abstraction Sign

So, what are musculoskeletal conditions? Well, musculoskeletal conditions occur within the soft connective tissues. MSDs are most frequently found at the neck, shoulders, back, and wrists. 

Once again referring to that 2016 study, we found that the impact of MSDs was not only physical, but economic as well. The direct and indirect costs elevated to $213 billion, or 1.4% of the U.S. GDP (gross domestic product).

In this post, we will be exploring more MSDs and their impacts. Furthermore, we’ll be discussing the possible future impact as more frequently, students and young children are being diagnosed. If you are looking for more information on RSIs and how to treat or combat them, you can follow this link. Like RSIs, it’s important to know that musculoskeletal disorders can be caused by repetitive motions.

The threat of MSDs:

Let’s begin with the newer generation and the very unique way they are experiencing musculoskeletal pains.

Multiple Electronic Device Use, Close Up

Referring to a 2018 study directed towards the direct impact of electronic devices and students between the ages of 10 and 18, we have found that there is a prevalent increase in the number of MSDs. Those increases are seen among females to a much greater degree.

The median increase was found in students aged 15 and who frequently used 2 or more electronic devices. There was a connection found with reducing use of electronic games and devices, and reduced musculoskeletal disorders.

Shoulder and neck injuries were among the most common injuries reported by university staff in this other 2018 study. They found that roughly 80% of the staff experienced some form of musculoskeletal pain where a good portion of them sought out professional treatments (65% of shoulder and 35% of wrist injury sufferers.)

An even more recent study also found that even having a musculoskeletal injury could lead to an increase in other work-related injuries. They also found that if we were able to reduce the symptoms of MSDs, we would potentially decrease the odds of a work-related injury by about 27%. 

There is also a connection between depressive states and musculoskeletal disorders. This connection indicates that older adults with MSDs are more likely to suffer from depressive symptoms, and those who suffer from both MSDs and depression are more likely to develop a disease.

Each musculoskeletal disorder have differing symptoms and treatments. What works for RSIs might not work for a rotator cuff injury. In order to best address treatments and common symptoms, we will be discussing some of the more frequent conditions of musculoskeletal strain.

When to speak up:

Doctor Medical Chart with Various Medical Tools

If you ever are experiencing inner elbow pain when straightening your arm, or searching for the perfect compression sleeve to help with your tennis elbow, odds are you should be consulting a doctor. Any amount of pain should be researched and taken seriously, especially if you are experiencing pain in multiple areas, like the shoulder and elbow.

Tennis elbow, otherwise known as lateral epicondylitis, is actually not exclusive to tennis players. It can occur in other careers just as frequently and is thought to come from repetitive motions that require extensive exertion of the forearm. 

Also if you find yourself searching for the best message to combat tendonitis or tennis elbow or any other specific joint of your body, again, you should instead communicate with a medical professional. A MSD is no joke and will likely pop up throughout the rest of your life if left unchecked. 

If you find yourself searching for relief, but aren’t aware of what you need relief from, below we have a list of the three most common MSDs known to date. We also cover what to do if you experience tendonitis in the wrist or any other musculoskeletal disorder symptoms.


To boil it down, tendonitis is the inflammation of a tendon. This can usually occur due to pinching a tendon, frequent lifting of heavy objects, and improper care of the rotator cuff muscle groupings. The most common areas of tendonitis inflammation are the neck, knee, wrist, ankle, and hand.

Any discomfort or pain within the shoulder or neck inflammation might be caused by tendonitis. This pain can range from a slow build-up or soreness to sharp, piercing pain. Before consulting a medical professional, check to see if there is any redness or swelling occurring at the point of injury. 

Anti-inflammatory Medicine pouring out of a Pink Bottle

If you are unable to find either of those signs, simple anti-inflammatory medication like aspirin or ibuprofen will likely help. If you are a fan of tea, you can also invest in drinking anti-inflammatory green tea.

Unfortunately, tendonitis covers a wide range of injuries. Most rotator cuff injuries, wrist discomfort, difficulties extending the arm, and even trouble raising your arm can be placed under the tendonitis umbrella. It is important that you consult with a medical professional if you are experiencing pain.

Other than the use of anti-inflammatory medicines, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation or manipulation, can be used to help recover from tendonitis. Should those treatments prove to be ineffective, either arthroscopic or open surgery may be a requirement.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a rather common condition that can cause pain, tingling in the hand and arm or general numbness of the hand. It occurs when a major nerve within the hand is squeezed or compressed. If the compression occurs over a longer duration, it can lead to permanent damage or worsening symptoms. 

Doctoral Wrist Examination Drawing

Much like RSIs, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can come about through repetitive motions. It can also be inherited, or develop from your wrist and hand positions during tasks, and from other conditions like pregnancy or diabetes.

Common treatments for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are braces or splints, NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), simple changes in activities and how you do them, or surgery. On rare occasions, it is possible for symptoms to recur.

Much like what we discussed in our repetitive strain injury post, apply changes to your environment and your posture will likely produce the best results in combating or reducing pain from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Make sure to take frequent breaks and stretch your wrists and fingers.


Hand X-ray

Much like tendonitis, arthritis is a rather encompassing injury with various possible treatments depending on the diagnosis. However, for the most part, arthritis is an inflammation of the joint. Some of the types of arthritis are psoriatic, septic, post-traumatic, and rheumatoid arthritis. 

Most common in weight-bearing joints on the body, arthritis is a medical condition that about 40 million Americans, and 350 million people worldwide, are medically diagnosed for. With roughly 21 million of those being osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease.

Common symptoms include inflammation or swelling, pain, numbness, and reduced flexibility. When determining what arthritic symptoms or conditions you may be facing, it’s always important to communicate with your doctor or medical professional. Even potentially seeking out an orthopaedist to determine what musculoskeletal condition you may be facing. 

Some treatment options include using over the counter medications to control inflammation like those listed under Tendonitis, or pain-reducing medications like acetaminophen. Another treatment might be through exercise, massage, and therapy. If you find yourself in the beginning stages of arthritis, it is possible that exercising more regularly could reduce symptoms, or even completely eliminate them.

There are also surgical treatments available where removal of the diseased or damaged joint lining, realignment of the joints, or replacement of the entire joint can help to decrease or eliminate the symptoms of arthritis. If you find that you are in need of surgery, make sure to research proper care instructions and the potential risk factors.

It is important to note that most cases of arthritis cannot be entirely eliminated. However, despite the assumed risk factors, frequent exercise, anti-inflammatories, and potential lifestyle changes can help long-term pain management.


As discussed earlier, prevention of MSDs ranges rather wildly, but ultimately can be reduced down to three small areas. These are areas you’ll want to investigate and commit to in your battle to prevent MSD injuries.

Happiness at Work

Psychosocial. Otherwise known as workplace enjoyment, plays a huge role in the development and occurrence of MSDs. Some psychosocial factors that come into play would be the demand, control, satisfaction, and support of the job. A study concluded that psychosocial factors are independent predictors of MSD onset and should be more relevant to prevention and intervention programs for occupational safety and health purposes.

Frequently Striking a Hammer While Holding Prongs

Repetitive actions. If you find yourself lifting heavy objects and/or sustaining awkward postures for long periods of time, we would recommend communicating with your boss or HR representative. A simple reduction in the frequency of heavy object lifting, and the distance between the back and an object during lift can drastically improve, or prevent, MSD symptoms and allow for you to work longer. 

Healthy Meal of Vegetables with some Meat

Diet. Finally, overall health plays a major role in the potential development of MSDs. Frequent exercising, ingesting foods that are rich in calcium and vitamin D, and generally increasing the amount of water consumption can drastically improve your odds of avoiding MSDs.

Treatment of MSDs:

Medical Substances like Gauze, Sterile Gloves, Pills, etc.

You might be wondering how to treat tendonitis or arthritis in your elbow or knee and thankfully, the treatment of musculoskeletal injuries has improved drastically. Most MSDs are able to be identified through the use of ultrasound machines thanks to significant advances in medical technologies.

There have also been improvements in the availability of musculoskeletal medicines. These advancements allow for minor cases to be more frequently treated and diagnosed, while also potentially catching earlier cases of MSDs before they advance to requiring surgery. 

The best way to treat musculoskeletal system disorders is simply investing in, and becoming knowledgeable of, industrial ergonomics. The basics of ergonomics is to adapt the work to the worker, and not assign tasks to individuals who are unprepared. Analyzing your workplace and frequent habits can help to improve your ergonomic environment.

Investments in the ergonomics of the workplace environment will improve morale, reduce MSDs, and ultimately reduce the number of days taken off from work as a result of work-related injuries. The economic impact of MSDs alone should be enough to encourage anyone to invest in proper ergonomic support. 

Solutions can come in the form of ergonomic training, encouraging early reporting of MSDs, or allowing for more break time between repetitive actions. In addition, understanding of the main ergonomic principles will aid in making sure you are personally working with proper posture. If you want to read more about this, check out our article on workplace ergonomics.


When it comes to your health and potential chronic pain, we absolutely recommend seeking medical advice from a healthcare professional. If you are aware of MSDs affecting you, look for orthopedic doctors that specialize in your MSD and get a better idea of how to properly treat your musculoskeletal system.

Elderly Walk Home with Groceries

It is important that we are all aware of the impact that MSDs can, and do, have on our society and global wellbeing. Taking small personal steps to avoid becoming part of the roughly 31 in 10,000 incidents of MSD related injury is extremely beneficial to your health and longevity within any workforce.

It is important for us to note that though we covered a wide range of Musculoskeletal Diseases and Disorders, there are still multiple MSDs that we were unable to cover. We implore you to do more research into what MSD you might be suffering from and how to better combat the symptoms you face. 

Congratulations, you've learned what MSDs are, and the best avoidance practices you can take in your everyday life.








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