List of Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders at the Office

work related musculoskeletal injuries

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders can be referred to by many different names, including WRMDs (work-related musculoskeletal disorders), repetitive strain injuries (RSI), repetitive motion injuries (RMI), and cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs).

Many people are unaware that office/desk jobs can be very physically taxing on the body. The problem is that desk jobs don’t usually elicit a sudden onset injury like a landscaping or other hands-on job would.

The mechanism of work-related musculoskeletal disorders is caused by repetitive micro-trauma at the cellular level. It usually occurs over a long period of time as the result of repeated daily exposure and not enough rest or time to recover fully.

Structures Impacted by Working at a Office Job

Structures that can be impacted are listed below:

  • Muscles/Tendons
    • excessively stretching a muscle can lead to a strain
    • muscles can “cramp” based on their inability to remove waste products
    • stress may cause abnormal tension levels, which can lead to pain
    • inflammation can occur if there is not enough synovial fluid in the tendon sheath and will restrict easy gliding + create a frictional environment
      • feelings of pain, warmth and tenderness will arise
  • Collagen
    • fibers can neither stretch or contract, if they are repeatedly and excessively strained, they can be torn
    • scar tissue can develop making our body more prone to repeated injury and will cause chronic tightness/reduced range of motion
    • if surfaces on a tendon become rough, this can interfere with proper body mechanics and can cause friction along other tissues
  • Nerves
    • nervous system is the most extended and connected system in the body
    • postural deficiencies will interfere with a nerves blood supply
    • hard surfaces an sharp edges of workplaces, tools, and equipment can trigger nerve compression
    • increases in compression of the nerves occurs when the position of a body part decreases the opening through which a nerve runs
    • nerve compression is caused by pressure from ligaments, tendons, muscles and bones
  • Blood Vessels
    • constriction or obstruction of blood supply can occur when the body is put in different positions
    • vascular compression can result in lack of blood flow which can lead to rapid muscular fatigue and increased recovery time of fatigued muscles after performing a task


Types of Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders

ergonomic risk factors

There is a wide array of disorders because all areas of the body can be effected.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  • median nerve is compressed when passing through the carpal tunnel (wrist bones)
  • within the carpal tunnel lies the median nerve and nine flexor tendons
  • nerve gets squished in-between the muscles and bones
  • very common in hand-intensive jobs (typing, using the mouse, desk jobs, laptop lifestyle)
  • tingling in the “gun fingers”



  • associated with excessive use of a joint and can afflict the wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints, legs, as well as other parts in the body.


Lateral Epicondylitis/Osis

  • overuse injury caused by overextension of the extensor muscles of the wrist
  • hand is in a non-neutral position – keyboard and mouse makes it so that wrists are in a constant state 0f extension
  • forearm extensors are used in the process of grasping objects
  • overuse of the extensor muscles may cause the elbow joint to become swollen and inflamed


Intersection Syndrome and deQuervain’s Syndrome

  • occurs in hand-intensive workplaces and jobs that require extensive thumb use
  • inflammation of the muscles/tendons on the side of the wrist and the base of the thumb


General Ischemia (lack of blood flow)

  • blood supply to a tissue is lacking
  • symptoms of this disorder can include numbness, tingling, and fatigue
  • common cause can be compression of the palm of the hand


Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

  • term used to describe the compression of nerves and vessels in the upper body
  • prolonged postures such as rounded shoulders or desk posture can contribute to thoracic outlet syndrome
  • can cause inflammation and swelling of the tendons in the shoulders and back
  • when the muscles are swollen or inflamed they can compress the nerves and vessels between the neck and shoulders
  • weak shoulder muscles, long necks, sloped shoulders, poor posture and obesity may contribute to thoracic outlet syndrome
  • there are a lot of symptoms, some are; aching pain in the shoulder and arm, heaviness or easy fatiguability of the arm, swelling of the arm and hand, numbness and tingling of the arm/hand


*** These work related musculoskeletal disorders can appear suddenly or over a long period of time


Stop it Before it’s Too Late!

injury prevention

There are 3 different stages related to work-related musculoskeletal disorders

Stage 1: Beginning Stage

  • aches come and go throughout the day
  • symptoms usually go away on their own overnight or when you have a couple days off
  • work performance is not affected at this stage


Stage 2: Symptomatic Stage

  • symptoms include tenderness, swelling, weakness, and numbness
  • pain begins early in the work shift and does not go away overnight
  • difficult time sleeping due to pain and discomfort
  • work performance is reduced
  • stage 2 symptoms usually last for months


Stage 3: Chronic Stage

  • symptoms during this stage persist even when the person is at rest
  • sleep is disrupted and pain is felt with non-repetitive motions
  • work performance highly affected even when performing light tasks
  • stage 3 symptoms persists for months or years


What Stage Are You In?

It is time to stop pushing aside your injuries! Awareness is the key!

I would recommend taking 5-10 minutes out of your day (everyday) to just be aware of how your body is feeling at that specific moment in time. Ask yourself: “Am I in pain?” , “Am I moving without any resistance?” , “How is my body feeling overall? (scale of 1 to 10)”.

Remember… The earlier, the better –  We want to catch these injuries at the beginning stages so that we can properly handle them, and avoid them from becoming a serious problem later in life.


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