Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD)

These tend to occur when a body part repeatedly works harder, stretches further or receives more impact than it is prepared for, causing damage.

This may affect muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments and fascia. Musculoskeletal disorders may be associated with a single joint – for example the knee, ankle, or shoulder – or may be widespread throughout the body, such as complex regional pain syndrome, chronic fatigue, and spinal disorders.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Pain
  • Joint stiffness
  • Redness and swelling of affected area
  • Pins and needles and/or numbness
  • Skin colour changes
  • Decreased or increased sweating 
  • Symptoms may fluctuate and pain is not necessarily equal to level of tissue damage.


Potential impact on daily life and employment

  • Reduced ability to undertake day-to-day tasks – eg. undo a lid on a jar, walk without pain, use a keyboard or write
  • Slow or impaired mobility
  • Changes to lifting, bending or carrying capacity
  • May have difficulty sleeping
  • Inability to focus for sustained periods due to pain or discomfort.

Support in the workplace

  • Consider if there are restrictions on the length of time the individual is able to sit, stand, walk, type etc. They may need to have regular breaks or adjust their position periodically 
  • Consider time off or flexible working arrangements for regular GP or hospital appointments, or to lessen the side effects of medication
  • Review the adjustments regularly to ensure they are still suitable and effective
  • Consider if flexibility is required to accommodate fluctuations in the condition, which could be daily or seasonal
  • Consider allocated car parking spaces for individuals with mobility restrictions
  • An application for funding may be appropriate for adapted chairs, desks, keyboards etc. as well as travel to work support, where a person has a diagnosed disability.

28% of Australians are affected by musculoskeletal conditions. That is around 6.1 million people.

Source; Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2015.

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