Information on Upper Limb Disorder (ULD)

  1. Introduction
  2. Suggested steps
  3. Useful links to further information
  4. Other useful references or other resources


Work-Related Upper Limb Disorders, or ULDs, is the name given to a group of clinical conditions affecting the upper limb such as Tenosynovitis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) and Tennis Elbow. At one time they were known as Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI). Now they are called ULDs because it is recognised that repetition is only part of the problem, other factors are important as well. However, some doctors and others still use the term RSI, often for aches and pains that don't fit into the clinical categories.

ULDs are not necessarily caused by work. For example, CTS can be due to a hormone imbalance, particularly in females. However, many jobs carry a slight risk that people doing them will develop aches or pains in part of the arm or shoulder. If untreated, and continually aggravated, these aches can develop into a ULD. The exact cause of many ULDs is not clearly known. But it is known, in general, that there are three factors which can provoke or cause them:

The three factors are interlinked: the more awkward the posture, the lower the force or tension which can be easily and safely withstood. The more strain that is generated by an action the less often it can be held or repeated without causing problems.

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Suggested steps include:

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Useful links to further information about ULD

HSE site where general information and advice is provided about work in an office environment

HSE site on musculoskeletal disorders

 HSE Publications

The UK Ergonomics Society Site. With a list of registered consultancies who may be able to help you.

Other useful resources:

Upper limb disorders in the workplace. HSG60((rev) HSE Books 2002. ISBN 0 7176 1978 8. (Gives more details on ULDs; how to identify the risks; and how to reduce or control them.) Aching arms (or RSI) in small businesses. INDG171 (Rev 1) 2/03 C750. ISBN 0 7176 62600 8 (
(A useful leaflet, available on-line or in print, outlining some issues and considerations that may be linked to upper limb disorders in the workplace together with some useful guidance.)

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