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European Agency for Safety and Health at Work

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Musculoskeletal disorders

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) can affect the body's muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments, bones and nerves.

Most work-related MSDs develop over time and are caused either by the work itself or by the employees' working environment. They can also result from accidents, e.g. fractures and dislocations. Typically, MSDs affect the back, neck, shoulders and upper limbs; less often they affect the lower limbs.

Health problems range from discomfort, minor aches and pains, to more serious medical conditions requiring time off work and even medical treatment. In more chronic cases, treatment and recovery are often unsatisfactory - the result could be permanent disability and loss of employment.

Many problems can be prevented or greatly reduced by complying with existing safety and health law and following guidance on good practice. This includes assessing the work tasks, putting in place preventive measures, and checking that these measures stay effective.

MSDs are a major problem.

For the employee, they cause personal suffering and loss of income; for the employer, they reduce business efficiency; and for government, they increase social security costs.

MSDs are a priority for the EU in its Community strategy on occupational health and safety. They are also a recognised priority by the EU Member States and European Social partners.

Read the Key facts

Agency publications on Musculoskeletal Disorders

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