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Perspectives in disease prevention and health promotion leading work-related diseases and injuries -- United States (musculoskeletal disorders).

MMWR 1983 Apr; 32(14):189-191
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has developed a suggested list of the 10 leading work-related diseases and injuries (Table 1). Problems in the first category, occupational lung diseases, were recently described (1); a discussion of the second category, musculoskeletal injuries, appears below. In 1982, musculoskeletal injuries accounted for 580,000 (18%) of the estimated 3.2 million emergency-room-treated occupational injuries in the United States (2). Physical demands of many jobs make the musculoskeletal system highly vulnerable to a variety of occupational injuries and illnesses. Manual handling of materials, repetitive motions, and vibration are especially important etiologic factors in the development of these disorders. Injuries associated with the manual handling of materials (e.g., unaided lifting and lowering): Low back injuries, often due to improper manual handling of materials, are the largest single subset of musculoskeletal injuries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that approximately one million workers sustained back injuries in 1980 and that back injuries account for one of every five injuries and illnesses in the workplace. Approximately one-fourth of all workers' compensation indemnity expenditures in eight states were for back injuries (3). Repetitive motion-associated trauma: Repetitive motion can cause "cumulative trauma disorders," including carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, ganglionitis, tenosynovitis, bursitis, and epicondylitis. These disorders may be caused or aggravated by repeated twisting or awkward postures, particularly when combined with high force. The population at risk includes persons employed in such industries or occupations as construction, food preparation, clerical work, product fabrication, and mining. Data from the National Occupational Hazard Survey suggest that 15%-20% of workers in these jobs are potentially at risk of cumulative trauma disorders (4). Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that in 1980 approximately 23,200 occupational injuries were associated with repeated trauma (5). Vibration-associated injuries: An estimated seven million workers in such occupations as vehicle operation are intermittently exposed to whole-body vibration, which significantly stresses the musculoskeletal system (6). Although the effects are poorly understood, preliminary data suggest that low back pain, vertebrogenic pain, and degenerative disk disease may be associated with whole-body vibration (7,8). An estimated 1.2 million workers are exposed to "segmental" vibration, i.e., vibration principally of a part or parts of the body, of which the principal sources are handheld power tools, such as chain saws and jackhammers (9). These exposures are associated with "vibration syndrome," characterized by intermittent numbness and blanching of the fingers with reduced sensitivity to heat, cold, and pain (10). Vibration syndrome may affect up to 90% of workers in such occupations as chipping, grinding, and chain sawing (11).
Musculoskeletal-system-disorders; Musculoskeletal-system; Manual-materials-handling; Manual-lifting; Materials-handling; Back-injuries; Morbidity-rates; Cumulative-trauma; Cumulative-trauma-disorders; Repetitive-work; Construction-industry; Construction-workers; Food-processing; Food-processing-workers; Food-processing-industry; Mining-industry; Vibration-exposure; Vibration-disease; Power-tools
Publication Date
Document Type
Journal Article
Fiscal Year
Issue of Publication
NIOSH Division
Source Name
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
Page last reviewed: December 4, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division