Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) have many names |

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are also known as Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTDs) and Repetitive Motion Disorders (RMDs) and overuse syndromes as well as repetitive strain injuries (RSIs). Learn more now about some of the most common MSDs seen in office workers which can be called by any of the names mentioned in this article.

Graphic of incorrect and correct postures

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.  

Pretty woman in glasses
Anka waring glasses and a shirt with the Buttillow™ logo

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.”

Whatever the name, you’ll feel the pain.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Graph of symptoms and causes of musculoskeletal disorders
Office syndrome infographic. Symptoms and causes of musculoskeletal disorders.

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).

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:

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

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.

Gamer girl in bikini top with headphone and playing computer games
Musculoskeletal disorders can happen to gamers and office workers.

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. 

14 different types of gamers in a variety of postures
Posture is important to relieve and prevent musculoskeletal pain and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) while gaming.

“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”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.