Musculoskeletal Disorders

Workbridge is the largest New Zealand-owned employment service for people with a disability or health condition.

What are musculoskeletal disorders?

Musculoskeletal disorders include conditions which affect the bones and joints, including the back and upper limbs.

Arthritis, which includes over 100 conditions which affect the joints, is one of the leading causes of disability in New Zealand affecting one in six people aged over 15. Over half of people with arthritis are of working age  Arthritis New Zealand website.

Occupational Overuse Syndrome (OOS) and Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) are umbrella terms which describe soft tissue injuries, usually in the upper limbs. It is often caused or worsened by repetitive motions or vibrations, exertion, poor posture and long periods working at the same task.

Some disorders including OOS and some lower back problems are affected by working practices. Back pain is the second leading cited cause of sick leave New Zealand Orthopedic Association.


How do musculoskeletal disorders affect people in employment?

Arthritis can limit mobility at work and affect the way in which people use equipment. People with arthritis may find heavy doors and some types of door handles and latches difficult to use. They may also benefit from adaptive computer and other equipment. Many people with arthritis will also be managing pain and may need additional rest breaks or, in some cases, time off to manage their condition.

Back problems can affect people in any occupation but there is an additional risk in occupations which include lifting and handling heavy weights, including caregiving and nursing, construction and labouring, and work which includes long periods in a static position such as office or driving jobs. There is a high risk of absence and reduced productivity if the risk environment is not corrected.

OOS can affect people in any occupation but there are certain risk occupations where there is more likelihood of repetitive movement, including office work (computer use), assembly and packing work, cleaning, and cashier work.


Useful links

Arthritis New Zealand is a national voluntary organisation in New Zealand which represents the interests of those with arthritis.

ACC provides information on avoiding back injury.

BackPain is a UK charity which helps people manage and prevent back pain.

RSI Prevention provides tips on how to prevent RSI or OOS at work, particularly when using the computer.