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Common work-related musculoskeletal conditions and what you can do to avoid them

June 1st, 2021 by
Category: Back pain Dr. Jefferson Gutierrez Knee pain Shoulder pain

construction worker bent on knees hammering a nail into a surface

What is the musculoskeletal system?

The musculoskeletal system is the framework of our body that provides us with the ability to produce movement. This system consists of muscles, bones, ligaments, cartilage, tendons and other connective tissue.

Musculoskeletal injuries are quite common in the workplace, especially in those occupations with manual handling. A musculoskeletal injury is damage to the muscle, tendon or ligament that was placed under stress that causes pain or discomfort.

Musculoskeletal conditions include:

  • Sprain or strains to muscles, tendons and ligaments
  • Joint and bone injuries 
  • Nerve injuries or compression (such as carpal tunnel)

The statistics

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 563,000 people had work-related injuries from the 2017-2018 financial year. The most common injuries that were reported was from ‘lifting, pulling, pushing and bending’. These movements lead to musculoskeletal injuries that include sprains and strains, and chronic joint and muscle conditions. The most common locations of injury were located in the shoulders and hands, the back and knees.

The majority of these injuries occurred in certain occupations such as labourers, technicians and trade workers, community and personal service workers, and machinery operators and drivers.

Although work-related injuries are common, they can be avoided! In today’s blog post, we will cover common work-related musculoskeletal conditions and how you can avoid them! 

1. Shoulder and hand injuries

Shoulder and hand injuries were the most common work-related injury in Australia from 2014-2015. 

Using our shoulders and hands is something that is inevitable for most of us, especially for those who work in physically demanding or laborious occupations. Injuring these areas can have a significant impact on day to day activities and overall quality of life.

One way to avoid hand type injuries is to make sure that you comply with your workplace safe work practices. This can be related to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Gloves are an example of PPE and can help minimise cuts, burns, abrasions, chemical injuries and electrical dangers.

For the shoulders, try to avoid repetitive over reaching and lifting objects above your head. These are two ways that the shoulder can be injured in the workplace. Where possible, use equipment to help get to hard to reach places such as extensions, or use a ladder or a step to place an object that is over shoulder height. This can help reduce the risk of strains or sprains as it reduces the amount of stress to the shoulders.

Another preventative measure is to warm up before work. Having a warm up routine before work can help activate those muscles to increase flexibility as well as prevent injury. 

2. Back injuries

Back injuries were the second most common type of injury in the workplace in Australia from 2014-2015. Injuries to the back were commonly caused by lifting, twisting, bending and overreaching. 

One way to avoid back injuries is to be aware of your posture. Ideally, you want your spine to be straight the majority of the time. Avoiding positions that can negatively impact your back, such as bending over, twisting, over-reaching and lifting with poor technique can be good ways to avoid these musculoskeletal injuries.

If manual handling is something that is unavoidable, using proper lifting techniques is a great way to prevent these back injuries from occurring. 

Before lifting anything, it is important to analyse the object first. Look for any information that shows the weight of the object or give it a nudge with your hand or foot to feel how heavy the object is. If you feel like the object is too heavy to lift with one person, ask a work colleague to help you or use suitable equipment to assist you, such as a trolley jack.

If the object is something you know that you can confidently lift, size up to the object first. This means getting close to the object, bending your hips and knees low enough to pick up the object whilst keeping your back straight. To perform the lift, push up with your legs and then stand up straight. It is also important to hold the object close to your body near the waistline as much as possible as that is your center of gravity. When placing the object down, use the same principle as you would when lifting it up, bending at the knees and hips while keeping your back straight.

3. Knee injuries

The third most common work-related injuries in Australia occurred in the lower limb particularly the knee from 2014-15. Injuries to the knee resulted from poor footwear, trips and falls, kneeling for long periods and repetitive movements.

Wearing appropriate footwear is a good way to prevent knee injuries. Anti-slip resistant shoes can help prevent slips and falls that can occur in the workplace. If the activity at work requires to be on your knee/s, investing in some knee pads for comfort and protection can help prevent knee injuries. Also, taking some time to warm up prior to work can help keep the muscles warm and joints moving well so they can perform at their best.

Shoulder, hand, back and knee injuries are the most common work-related musculoskeletal conditions. If these conditions are left untreated, it has the potential to get worse and cause chronic pain.  


In summary, there are various ways to avoid the above musculoskeletal  conditions, whether it be by a simple warm up, using personal protective equipment (PPE) or lifting with the correct posture. Applying these simple tips can help prevent these injuries or conditions from occurring so you can work at your full capacity as well as enjoy life after work.

If you experience any of these musculoskeletal conditions, get in touch with your local Chiropractor, Osteopath or Physiotherapist for tailored care and advice.




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