Hazards for musculoskeletal disorders can be minimized

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are very common, but few people know what they are until they are suffering with pain. This document contains a list of common MSDs that can occur in people prior to entering the work-force because people use computers now for fun.

Gamer Girl - WHO's designation of Gamer Syndrome

MSDs are common in office workers

The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration defines musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) as “injuries and disorders of the soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints and cartilage) and nervous system.  They can affect nearly all tissues, including the nerves and tendon sheaths, and most frequently involve the arms and back.”  

Up to 85 percent of the population will suffer from musculoskeletal pain.  

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are known by many names, such as cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs).

MSDs are also called repetitive motion disorders (RMDs),  overuse syndromes,  repetitive strain injuries, and “office syndrome.”

Office syndrome infographic. Symptoms and causes.

Poor ergonomic posture can cause MSDs  

When workers sit or stand in a posture that is not ergonomically correct, they can experience musculoskeletal pain.

Because musculoskeletal pain and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are a major source of suffering, health care, and utilization of compensation, there is a definite need for prevention (2).

Poor posture can cause musculoskeletal pain and musculoskeletal disorders

OSHA – MSDs have a variety of names

Ergonomics:  The Study of Work, OSHA 3125, page 2, states “Occupational safety and health professionals have called these disorders a variety of names, including cumulative trauma disorders, repeated trauma, repetitive stress injuries, and occupational overexertion syndrome.”

To view OSHA’s discussion of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs): “Ergonomics:  The Study of Work – OSHA 3125,” click here: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3125.pdf

Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTDs) defined by PEOSH:

“Cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs) are injuries of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems that may be caused by repetitive tasks, forceful exertions, vibrations, mechanical compression (pressing against hard surfaces) or sustained or awkward positions.  Cumulative trauma disorders are also called repetitive motion disorders (RMDs), overuse syndromes, regional musculoskeletal disorders, repetitive motion injuries, or repetitive strain injuries.”

Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health Program, New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, “PEOSH Cumulative Trauma Disorders in Office Workers” December 1, 1997

Person with back pain from repetitive forward bending
Person with back pain from repetitive forward bending

Musculoskeletal Disorders in office workers:

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – a compression of the median nerve in the wrist that may be caused by swelling and irritation of tendons and tendon sheaths.

Tendinitis – An inflammation (swelling) or irritation of a tendon. It develops when the tendon is repeatedly tensed from overuse or unaccustomed use of the hand, wrist, arm, or shoulder.

Tenosynovitis – An inflammation (swelling) or irritation of a tendon sheath associated with extreme flexion and extension of the wrist.

Low Back Disorders – These include pulled or strained muscles, ligaments, tendons, or ruptured disks. They may be caused by cumulative effects of faulty body mechanics, poor posture, and/or improper lifting techniques.

Synovitis – An inflammation (swelling) or irritation of a synovial lining (joint lining).

DeQuervain’s Disease – A type of synovitis that involves the base of the thumb.

Bursitis – An inflammation (swelling) or irritation of the connective tissue surrounding a joint, usually of the shoulder.

Epicondylitis – Elbow pain associated with extreme rotation of the forearm and bending of the wrist. The condition is also called tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome – a compression of nerves and blood vessels between the first rib, clavicle (collar bone), and accompanying muscles as they leave the thorax (chest) and enter the shoulder.”

Cervical Radiculopathy – A compression of the nerve roots in the neck.

Ulnar Nerve Entrapment – A compression of the ulnar nerve in the wrist.

Symptoms of MSDs or CTDs

The following symptoms may involve the back, shoulders, elbows, wrists, or fingers.  If symptoms last for at least one week or if they occur on many occasions a doctor should be consulted. 

  • Numbness,
  • Decreased joint motion,
  • Swelling,
  • Burning,
  • Pain,
  • Aching,
  • Redness,
  • Weakness,
  • Tingling,
  • Clumsiness,
  • Cracking or popping of joints

MSDs can be caused by work and non-work activities

These disorders can result from work and other than work activities that involve repetitive motions or sustained awkward postures, such as sports or hobbies. 

“These painful and sometimes crippling disorders develop gradually over periods of weeks, months, or years. . .Work and non-work activities may together contribute to cumulative trauma disorders.  These disorders can also be aggravated by medical conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, multiple myeloma, thyroid disorders, amyloid disease and pregnancy.” 

“PEOSH Cumulative Trauma Disorders in Office Workers” December 1, 1997


  1. Public Employees Occupational Safety & Health, State of NJ, 1997.
  2. Textbook of Pain, 1998, “Prevention of Disability due to Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain,” written by Steven James Litton
  3. U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA 3125 2000 (Revised), “Ergonomics:  The Study of Work”

Author: Melanie Loomos

I was a court reporter for 10 years and spent most of my time in very uncomfortable chairs. As a result, I spent years researching seating and submitted two patent applications: "The Carpal Tunnel Chair,” and "The Pillow with Cantilever Supports.," The Buttpillow® has several configurations so you can find the best cushion for your workstation. For example, Gamers need a rearward tilt if they lean back & coders typically need a forward sloping cushion. The Buttpillow® was improved upon as it was determined different embodiments were needed for proper ergonomic positioning depending on the individual sitter. The Patented "Ergonomic Seating Cushion,” was was granted by the USPTO; and was later amended to include an embodiment specifically to help women maintain the natural curve of their lumbar spine during the second and third trimester of pregnancy. An extreme lumbar curve that restricts blood flow to the fetus is the only external risk factor for low birth weight babies. In 2003, I invented Ergosoft™ break reminder software based on OSHAs Ergonomic Standard so people can identify and minimize ergonomic risk factors for the development of sitting-related pain, eye strain, DVT and carpal tunnel syndrome.

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