MSD prevention

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) refer to injuries of the muscles, ligaments and other soft tissues, including back, neck, shoulder and wrist pain. They are also known as repetitive strain injuries and cumulative trauma disorders. IWH conducts a wide range of research on MSDs—exploring how often they occur, what work-related factors contribute to them, their treatment and functional assessment, and the system- and workplace-level prevention and return-to-work programs that can help prevent and manage them.



Participatory approach to health and safety in long-term care

Involve front-line staff when identifying and controlling hazards at long-term care homes. Those who do a job every day know the associated hazards best. A participatory approach can help prevent injuries.
Published: October 2, 2019
A New Zealand construction worker holding papers looking off-camera with a city skyline behind
Impact case study

Construction safety org adapts IWH research messages for tradesworker audience

A key program from Construction Health and Safety New Zealand—developed using IWH research—takes a participatory ergonomics approach to better prevent and manage musculoskeletal injuries among construction workers.
Published: February 2024
Workers Health & Safety Centre logo
IWH in the media

MSD prevention should consider role of gender and psychosocial hazards too

Workplaces need to examine how work is organized and assigned by gender if they want to understand and address the real root causes of musculoskeletal injuries (MSDs). WHSC reports on a virtual RSI Day event hosted by the Manitoba Federation of Labour’s Occupational Health Centre with support from SAFE Work Manitoba. As part of the program IWH scientists Dr. Dwayne Van Eerd and Dr. Heather Johnston offered an interactive presentation exploring common work-related risk factors for both musculoskeletal and psychological injury.
Published: Workers Health & Safety Centre, March 2022
A long-term care worker pushes a resident in a wheelchair down the hall
Research Highlights

Implementing participatory ergonomics in the long-term care sector

It can be challenging to tackle long-standing musculoskeletal hazards in busy, high turnover settings such as long-term care homes. Despite this, an IWH study finds a participatory approach—one that involves frontline workers—can be successfully implemented and sustained.
Published: February 2022
A woman smiles sympathetically at a colleague in an office
Research Highlights

Workers’ and managers’ perspectives on workplace supports for depression

In a survey of workers with depression and those who manage them, nearly one out of four said no supports were available. Asked about the most helpful type of support, survey respondents with lived experience of depression most often indicated employee assistance programs (EAPs) and other supports external to the workplace. As for barriers to implementing practices, participants noted unsupportive managers, lack of knowledge about mental health in the workplace, and lack of training for managers.
Published: January 2022
Journal article
Journal article

Workplace musculoskeletal disorder prevention practices and experiences

Published: Inquiry, January 2022
Canadian Occupational Safety logo
IWH in the media

WorkSafeBC fellowship awardee on the importance of good ergonomics

Dr. Heather Johnston is a recent recipient of the inaugural WorkSafeBC Ralph McGinn Postdoctoral Fellowship award. Her research project is on the risk factors and hazards common between work-related psychological injuries and musculoskeletal injuries, as well as how Canadian workplaces address these common risk factors.

Published: Canadian Occupational Safety, September 2021
Journal article
Journal article

Implementation of participatory organizational change in long term care to improve safety

Published: Journal of Safety Research, September 2021
A female construction worker stands next to a steel girder
Tools and guides

Implementing MSI prevention programs: Advice from workplaces for workplaces

This resource, developed with partners in Newfoundland and Labrador, provides research and practice evidence on musculoskeletal injuries (MSI) prevention practices and programs for workplaces to consider and implement. The resource describes the evidence in three main sections: awareness, training, and hazard identification and solutions.
Published: February 2021
A man holding his back
At Work article

Cochrane back group earns high praise for its rigorous systematic reviews

Recent assessments of low-back pain research have give high marks to Cochrane Back and Neck systematic reviews, citing rigorous methods.
Published: November 2020