1. Health
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

What is an MSD?


Updated June 27, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: What is an MSD?
MSD is an acronym that stands for musculoskeletal disorder.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a musculoskeletal disorder (also known as MSD) is a disorder of soft tissue, joints, cartilage, blood vessels, or spinal discs. In the workplace, MSD mainly describes injuries or conditions in areas of the body that may be exposed to risk factors (discussed below under MSD Hazards): neck, back, shoulder, elbow, forearm, wrist, hand, abdomen (hernia only), knee and ankle.

The term MSD may be used to refer to a number of common medical conditions:


MSD Hazards

An MSD hazard refers to work-related risk factors that cause symptoms requiring restriction of work duties and/or medical treatment beyond first aid. OSHA recognizes at least 6 work-related risk factors for an MSD: force, contact stress, non-neutral (awkward) positions or posture, vibration, cold temperatures, and repetition. If you experience more than one of these, you have a much higher likelihood of getting an MSD. For a list of symptoms associated with a specific MSD, click on the link to the individual MSD in the above list.

Neck and Back MSD

Most back MSDs are caused by posture and non-neutral positions, and force. Low back strain from lifting heavy items while twisting is an example.

Most neck MSDs are caused by non-neutral positions and posture, such as when you hold your phone between your ear and your shoulder by tilting your head.


What Should You do if You get An MSD At Work?

Work-related MSDs that require medical treatment beyond first aid, assignment to a light-duty job, or that cause MSD-related symptoms lasting a week or longer, are called MSD incidents. If you have an MSD incident, you should report it to your employer. Employers are required by law to take your report seriously, and to not seek retribution because you spoke up.



Ergonomics Program. Proposed Rules. Federal Register #64:65768-66078 Standard # 1910. November 23 1999

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Back & Neck Pain
  4. Prevention
  5. Ergonomics
  6. What is a Musculoskeletal Disorder (MSD)?

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.