Work related upper limb disorders are aches, pains, tension involving any part of the arm from fingers to shoulder, or the neck and include problems with the soft tissues, muscles, tendons and ligaments, along with the circulatory and nerve supply to the limb.

 Risk factors for upper limb disorders

These can be broadly broken down into four areas:

Posture: The wrist works best when the arm and hand are in a straight line. Rotating the hand can strain the tendons and nerve supply around the wrist. Some workers (for example those who use computers for long periods) can be susceptible to injury because of the need to bend their elbow and rotate their wrists.

Force: Excessive or even moderate but regular force can prompt symptoms of ULDs, particularly in activities that rotate the arm or wrist

Repetition: Repetitive activities, like working on a factory production line, are well known causes of ULDs because unequal stress is put on different parts of the body.

Working environment: Certain factors in the work environment can contribute to triggering ULDs, including:

  • the nature of work and the way it is undertakensuch as repetitive tasks and the posture that’s adopted by workers.
  • poor lighting (which can encourage people to adopt poor posture).
  • stress (which can encourage a person to work more intensively, tense the muscles or to skip breaks).
  • psychosocial factors such as working methods – a worker’s psychological response to work can influence their health (particularly their musculoskeletal health).

The most common WRULDs are: 

  • Neck: Tension Neck Syndrome. 
  • Shoulder: Shoulder Tendonitis, Shoulder Bursitis, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. 
  • Elbow: Epicondylitis, Olecranon Bursitis, Radial Tunnel Syndrome, Cubital Tunnel Syndrome. 
  • Wrist/Hand: De Quervain Disease, Trigger Finger, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Guyon’s Canal Syndrome, Hand-Arm Syndrome.

Anastasios M. Margaritis
Occupational Health& Safety Specialist.
Bsc Physiotherapy & Sports Science.
Orthopaedic Manual Therapist.
Back Mechanic Specialist.


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