Environmental Health & Safety > Ergonomics > Injuries & Prevention > Preventing MSDs

Preventing MSDs


  • Warm up and stretch before starting activities that are repetitive, static or prolonged.
  • Take frequent breaks from any sustained posture every 20-30 minutes and stretch stiff muscles.
  • Respect pain. Change positions or stop whenever activities cause pain.
  • Recognize early signs of the inflammatory process, and treat early.
  • Only use splints and wrist supports after instruction by your physician or therapist.


  • Maintain erect position of back and neck with shoulders relaxed. Minimize twisting and bending motions. Position equipment and work tasks so that your body is directly in front of and close to your major work tasks.
  • Use proper positioning during all activities. Keep upper arms close to the body, elbows at 100 degrees, forearms neutral (thumb toward ceiling), and wrist straight. Keep feet flat on the floor when seated by proper adjustment of your chair, or use of a footrest.
  • Keep wrists as neutral as possible. Avoid extreme motions. There is a safe zone of movement for your wrist. This zone is about 15 degrees in all directions.
  • Avoid bending neck forward for prolonged periods of time. If typing from a manuscript, place the document on a holder beside or below your computer screen.
  • Avoid static positions for prolonged periods. Muscles fatigue faster when they are held in one position. Keep moving to increase your blood circulation.

Task Modification:

  • Whenever possible, alternate activities frequently throughout the day. Rotate heavy and/or repetitive tasks with lighter, less repetitive tasks.
  • If symptoms become worse, or a specific activity consistently causes discomfort, reassess the task setup and look for alternative methods.
  • Avoid repetitive or prolonged grip/pretension activities. Avoid pinching with wrist flexion or wrist deviation (bending to side). Take frequent breaks to stretch and rest hands.
  • Avoid tugging, jerking, or pounding with the hand.

Tool/Environmental Modification:

  • Avoid tools with finger grooves, hard plastic handles, sharp edges, small diameter, or large diameter handles.
  • Use power devices when available.
  • Use grips/tape to build up small diameter pens/pencils for writing. Better still, select large diameter pens with soft grip pads.
  • Use the longest tool possible (screwdrivers, wrenches) for the best leverage.
  • Use vises, clamps, or jigs to stabilize objects to avoid sustaining forceful gripping with the hand.
  • Use a step stool or ladder when necessary to reach above shoulder level, or to lift objects overhead.
  • Use carts/dollies to carry heavy loads. Avoid the need to handle heavy loads by making several trips.
  • Use forearm troughs, armrests, or pillows under forearms during tasks if needed.
  • Use adjustable keyboard trays large enough to support a pointing device to properly position your keyboard. Negative tilt adjustability is highly recommended if you sit in an upright position to work.
  • Tilt containers or objects to avoid bending the wrist to pick up objects.

Body Mechanics:

  • Use the largest joints and muscles to do the job.
  • Use two hands to lift rather than one, even with light objects and tasks. Avoid lifting with the forearm in full prone (palms down) or supine (palms up).
  • Slide or push and pull objects instead of lifting.
  • Keep reaching to a minimum. Position objects close to the body within easy reach. Carry objects close to body at waist level.