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Is the older worker more vulnerable to WMSDs?

Musculoskeletal disorders constitute the most common form of work-related ill health; and older workers are more susceptible to work-related MSDs than younger workers because of decreased functional capacity. However, chronological age is not the most important determinant of health, and ageing does not inevitably bring illness and disease. Health is influenced by numerous other factors, particularly lifestyle and amount of exercise and nutrition.

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) are a group of painful disorders of muscles, tendons and nerves.
The most common symptom associated with musculoskeletal disorders is pain although some sufferers report joint stiffness, muscle tightness, ‘pins and needles’ and redness and swelling of the affected area. WMSDs may progress in stages from mild to severe:

  • Early stage
    Aching and tiredness of the affected limb occur during the work shift but disappear at night and during days off work.
  • Intermediate stage
    Aching and tiredness occur early in the work shift and persist at night; reduced capacity for repetitive work.
  • Late stage
    Aching, fatigue, and weakness persist at rest; inability to sleep and to perform light duties.

Back Pain
Low back pain can start to affect adults in their 30s and 40s but by taking care of your body throughout adulthood, you can potentially decrease your risk of developing back problems. 
The most common causes of back pain are strained muscles or ligaments and general constitutional degenerative changes ‘wear and tear’.  Key facts:

  • 90% of the UK population get back pain at some point.

  • Most back pain settles within six weeks.

  • Back pain can return.

  • Four out of five workers suffers from back pain and 20% take time off work because of it.

  • Any damage to the spine can make an everyday activity either impossible or extremely painful.

  • Lifting people was identified as one of the most common causes of back injury, affecting nurses and residential staff as well as other workers.

  • Poor posture while sat at a computer can cause more back problems than the excessive lifting and carrying done by manual workers.

  • Bending over (or leaning toward) a computer keyboard and placing the phone between the ear and shoulder can all contribute to lower back and neck stiffness.

  • Also many office workers sit for long hours at their desk with very little movement.

The occupational groups listed below have statistically significantly higher rates of back disorders than the average across all occupations:

  • Health professionals.
  • Skilled trade occupations, in particular construction and building trades.
  • Caring leisure and other service occupations, in particular caring personal services.


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