What are MSK problems?

Musculoskeletal (MSK) problems are when we have something wrong with our muscles, bones or joints.  They are sometimes called MSK conditions or disorders.

What are MSK conditions?

  • Most of us get aches and pains or stiffness at some time, particularly as we get older.
  • Some are short lived, often following an injury.  Others can be lifelong.
  • Musculoskeletal conditions affect 1 in 5 adults and more common as people get older
  • There is a wide variety of conditions that affect our bones, joints and muscles
  • The condition may be due to an inflammatory disease; ageing; a congenital or developmental abnormality; trauma such as a road traffic accident or fall; or injuries related to sport or occupation.
  • Sometimes the causes are unclear and then it is just described as pain, such as back or neck pain.

What is the impact of MSK conditions?

MSK conditions have a pervasive impact on all aspects of life.

Musculoskeletal health and work

Musculoskeletal health and work are interlinked.

Musculoskeletal conditions often limit work capacity as they affect the ability to perform common physical tasks, for example osteoarthritis of the hip or knee limits mobility and prevents many people aged over 50 years working.  As these conditions become more common as people age, they often prevent people working into older ages.

Work can cause or aggravate musculoskeletal conditions, for example lifting can cause or worsen back pain, repetitive work activities are related to upper limb problems.

Musculoskeletal health and mental health

  • MSK and mental health problems often interrelated.
  • MSK problems often cause lack of sleep, stress and anxiety about being restricted in what you can do and concerned about the future.  Peoples sometimes become depressed
  • Stress, anxiety and depression that occur for other reasons can sometimes cause MSK pain.  There is often muscle tension. 
  • Mental health also affects a person’s ability to deal with an MSK problem and makes it more difficult for them to work around it.

What puts people at risk of MSK conditions?

What exposes you to risk?

You can reduce your risks by:

  • ensuring your abilities match with the demands of the job (LINK)
  • committing to a healthy lifestyle in and out of the workplace (LINK)
  • Reducing your risks and hazards in the workplace (LINK)

Living with an MSK condition

MSK conditions affecting all ages and have a pervasive impact on people’s lives – at home, at work and at leisure.  Many do not appreciate this unless you or someone close to you is affected by a MSK problem.  Some stories will highlight this impact but also show how people learn to manage their condition with the support of their employers and of health professionals.

Case studies (to add)

If you have a MSK condition that affects your everyday activities, then click here to seek support.

Do you have an MSK problem?