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Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs): risk factors, diagnosis and prevention

Vesselinka Dimitrova Nestorova, Iskra Slavcheva Mircheva


Introduction. Impairments like musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) that involve many days away from work affect negatively the productivity of businesses. Depending on the severity of the impairment, losses to businesses can be significantly high. Research to improve the understanding of the relationship between MSDs, carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), related economic costs, lost productivity in businesses is essential given workplace injuries not only affect productivity but deteriorate the situation destabilizing the economic state of businesses. Millions of working days are lost due to work-related diseases all over the world.

Aim.  The aim of this article is to analyze the main MSDs in regard to the diagnosis and the risk factors that lead to such conditions, and to outline some of the measures concerning the prevention of MSDs.

Materials and Methods. Diagnosis, prevention and main risk factors of MSDs are analyzed based on literature search and vital statistics.

Results. Among the major risk factors for MSDs are biomechanical, biobehavioral, psychosocial and organizational risk factors. The most common diseases of the musculoskeletal system are: myositis, tendonitis, paratenonitis, tendovaginitis, tendomyositis, stenotic tendo-ligamentitis, periarthritis, styloiditis, epicondylitis, spondylosis, spondyloarthritis and others. Isolated damages are less frequent. More frequent are the combined musculoskeletal and soft tissue disorders, such as myotendinitis, myotendinosis, myoinsertionitis, tendosinovitis, as well as interstitial lesions with vascular and neurological disorders: myositis, carpal tunnel syndrome with n. medianus lesion, scalenus syndrome - with nervous and vascular damages of the arm, etc. As work-related MSDs arise from multiple risk factors, a holistic preventive approach is needed. Preventive strategies need to be taken at three levels: primary prevention with a combined focus on the risk assessment process and implementation of technical, organizational and person-oriented measures; secondary prevention consists of targeting, early identification and intervention; and tertiary prevention aims to stimulate and facilitate the (multidisciplinary) return-to-work process of workers being absent from work due to an MSDs problem.

Conclusion. Early recognition of occupational MSDs by preliminary examination and regular check-ups is very important because medical treatment is unlikely to be effective once these impairments become long-standing. Cost effectiveness will be achieved by proper diagnosis, occupational MSD identification, and early onset of adequate rehabilitation followed by a short-term rehabilitation of the worker.


musculoskeletal disorders; MSDs; MSD risk factors; MSD prevention

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About The Authors

Vesselinka Dimitrova Nestorova
Department of Physiotherapy, Rehabilitation, Thalassotherapy, Occupational Diseases, Faculty of Public Health, Medical University of Varna

Iskra Slavcheva Mircheva
Department of Social Medicine and Health Care Organization, Faculty of Public Health, Medical University of Varna

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