Musculoskeletal (MSK) disorders - such as muscle, back and joint problems - are the single biggest cause of work absence in Scotland. Each year over a million people visit their GP with an MSK disorder. 

Although these types of disorders are very common they're by no means an inevitable consequence of work.


Most work-related MSK disorders are as a direct result of:

  • poorly setup workspaces
  • a lack of health and safety education among managers and workers

What you can do

There are many quick and simple things you can do prevent work-related injuries, such as:

  • taking a 20 min walk twice a day
  • doing some stretches
  • changing your position regularly
  • setting up your chair and equipment properly
  • using the correct technique when moving and handling

Go for a walk

If you sit for long periods of the day you should consider taking walks during breaks. Although longer walks are of most benefit, short walks are still a much better alternative to sitting.

It's important that however you spend your working day you try and move more. If your job involves a lot of standing, regular breaks to your routine to include periods of sitting or walking can help reduce your risk of MSK disorders.

Do some stretches

If you sit for long periods you might consider developing stretches to keep you supple while at rest. A combination of regular stretches and walks are recommended for all workers spending prolonged periods sitting.

When incorporating stretches into your daily routine you're likely to gain the most benefit repeating these little and often throughout the day.

Change your posture

Regularly changing your working position is very important for those that sit for long periods of the day. Sitting in one position for a long period can increase your risk of developing an MSK disorder.

Changing your working position regularly and carrying out routine stretching can also help to prevent repetitive strain injuries from occurring.

To incorporate some of these into your routine you might find planning your day in advance useful. Taking the long way to the photocopier or breaking up your drive for a quick stretch are easy to remember and plan for.

These activities will make you feel healthier and more energised too.

Driving positions

When travelling in a car or lorry it's important to sit correctly. Improving your driving position can make a big difference to the prevention and recovery of MSK disorders.

Find the right chair

Finding the right chair is important. You should always insist on testing chairs before deciding on the best option.

Be aware that different jobs have different requirements where seating is concerned. Computer operators and office workers need different chairs and sitting positions than hairdressers and dentists.

Set up your display screen equipment correctly

Nearly every place of work requires the use of computers. Some types of jobs involve more use than others.

Apart from the strain caused by long spells of sitting at a PC, you should also consider the impact on your eyes.

If you wear glasses or contact lenses, especially bifocals, this needs to be taken into consideration by your employer.

Plan any moving and handling

When approaching moving and handling tasks it's important to consider that each and every lift presents its own risks.

Try to plan these tasks ahead and remember to discuss any concerns with your employer.

Information for managers

Employees with MSK disorders are common in most workplaces. As a result, increases in absence and reduced working hours are to be expected as employees receive treatment and recover.

What you can do

As a manager it's both helpful and productive to encourage employees around their own health and wellbeing. It's important you're seen to be leading by example.

To do this, you might consider:

  • encouraging your employees to make full use of their regular breaks away from their desks
  • providing training and instruction around good posture and safe lifiting techniques

It's not always easy to know who to turn to for advice on MSK disorders as an employer. If you're fortunate enough to have an occupational health department, they'll be able to give good advice and guidance. 

Last updated:
11 May 2022