What Are Musculoskeletal Disorders?
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)
consist of minor physical disabilities. This term is used to describe a variety
of conditions that affect the muscles, bones, and joints. The severity of the
MSD can vary. Pain and discomfort may interfere with everyday activities. MSDs
are extremely common, and your risk increases with age. Early diagnosis is the
key to ease pain while potentially decreasing further bodily damage.
Types of MSDs
MSDs can affect all major
areas of the body, including the:
Given the different areas of
the body that make up the musculoskeletal system, several other diseases can
produce significant musculoskeletal signs and symptoms. These other disorders include:
- low back pain
Some of these disorders can
cause mild discomfort to debilitating pain. Low back pain is the most common MSD.
What Causes MSDs?
MSDs have a range of causes.
The exact cause depends on your:
- activity level
Certain types of activities
can cause wear and tear overtime, which may lead to these types of disorders.
Just as frequent sports training can wear down a certain part of the body, so
can sitting down in the same position at a computer every day. Poor posture and
lack of stretching can worsen the effects of these types of activities.
According to the Bureau of
Labor Statistics, the following professions experienced more musculoskeletal
problems than average in 2007:
- delivery truck
- freight handlers
- nursing aides
- orderlies (BLS, 2008)
MSDs also increase with age.
For this reason, many people believe that age directly causes these types of
conditions. Muscles, bones, and joints naturally break down with age, but
getting old doesn’t mean you’ll automatically develop related medical
disorders. In fact, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and
Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), low back pain typically starts
affecting adults in their 30s and 40s (NIAMS, 2012).
By taking care of your body throughout adulthood, you can potentially decrease
your risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders as you age.
What Are the Symptoms of MSDs?
Symptoms of musculoskeletal
disorders can hamper everyday tasks, such as walking. You may notice you have
limited range of motion, as well as difficulties accomplishing your favorite
activities. Call your doctor if you experience:
- recurrent pain
- stiff, painful
- dull aches
A doctor’s visit is required
to pinpoint the exact causes of your pain and discomfort. First, your physician
will perform a physical exam to test your muscles for any weaknesses or atrophy.
Unusual reflexes may indicate nerve damage. Swelling and redness may be signs
of the forms of arthritis: gout, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
If bone fractures are
suspected, your doctor will likely order X-rays to get a better look at the
bones. X-rays may also indicate areas of increasing bone loss. Blood tests may
be used to investigate rheumatic diseases.
disorders depends on the severity of your condition. Occasional pain may be
addressed with exercises as well as over-the-counter medications, such as
ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Never take these medicines without a doctor’s
Advanced disorders may
require different treatment approaches. Physical therapy and occupational
therapy can help you learn techniques to manage pain and discomfort during
everyday activities. Prescription medications may also be required to help
reduce inflammation and pain.
Preventive measures are the
best ways to help prevent MSDs. These disorders aren’t common during young
adulthood, but your risk increases with age. This is why it is crucial to
change your lifestyle habits now to help avoid potential pain later. Regular strengthening
exercises and stretching can help keep bones, joints, and muscles strong. Also
take care in the ways in which you complete everyday activities. Maintain a
tall posture to prevent back pain and be careful when picking up heavy objects.