Musculoskeletal disorders

We strive to understand what factors cause or contribute to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and develop guidance on how to prevent them.
For many years, MSDs have been one of the biggest causes, if not THE biggest cause, of work-related sickness absence in the UK.  However, this is not just a ‘local’ problem and similar problems affect workers in many other countries.

Despite extensive efforts to tackle this problem (for example specific workplace legislation has been in place in the UK and much of Europe for over 25 years), statistics show that these efforts have had little impact on the problem.  The costs and burdens of this problem are immense. 

At a personal level the impact on individuals, their work, and their home life can be financially, psychologically, and socially disabling.

For the employer, the associated costs (both direct and indirect) quickly mount up and, for society, the burden of treating and supporting those unable to work creates a considerable strain on increasingly limited resources. Such considerations explain both the importance of this issue and the potential consequences of inaction.

At one time, MSDs were regarded as a consequence of heavy physical work affecting occupations such as coal miners, steelworkers, dockers, and construction labourers to name a few. However, it is now recognised that those in so-called ‘light’ jobs such as office workers are affected to a similar degree (although possibly more able to continue working than those in heavy jobs).  MSDs are widespread and common, especially (but not exclusively) with an ageing workforce.

Our research:

Our research spans many aspects of MSDs including:

  • basic research into the causes of MSDs
  • understanding the contribution made by work
  • gaining an understanding of ‘what works’ (and what doesn’t work)
  • developing this knowledge into help and guidance on how to prevent them

Understanding aspects of MSDs has been an element of our research almost since its inception.  In that time, building on a sound base of reliable and impartial research, our researchers have gained a strong reputation for their knowledge and expertise in the field.

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