Manual handling injuries

Manual handling injuries are injuries associated with manual handling.

Manual handling injuries are injuries that should not be overlooked as it has serious negative effects.

According to the Health and Safety Executive, approximately 120,000 people were injured at work from manual handling incidents in 2016. Over 30% of food and drink industry injuries reported to HSE are manual handling injuries such as back injuries, this represents around 1700 acute injuries per year; 60% of the injuries involve lifting heavy objects.

Some major manual handling injuries include:

  • Repetitive strain injury (RSI),
  • Muscle pulls or strains,
  • Trapped nerves,
  • Hernias,
  • Work-related upper limb disorders (WRULDs)
  • Back injury

Repetitive strain injury: It is also known as work-related upper limb disorder, or non-specific upper limb pain. It is called upper limb disorder because it majorly affects the upper body, such as the, forearms and elbows, wrists and hands, neck and shoulders, etc.

Repetitive strain injury is caused by repetitive movement and overuse of muscles, nerves and tendons resulting to pains in these areas.

Symptoms includes – Pain, aching or tenderness; Stiffness; Throbbing; Tingling or numbness; Weakness; Cramp.

Muscle pulls or strains: This is caused by sudden and unexpected tear of the muscle as in acute muscle pull or repetitive movement as in chronic muscle strain. Strains can happen in any muscle, but are most common in the muscle of the lower back, neck, shoulder, and hamstring. It mostly result to pain and may limit movement within the affected muscle group. (Additional Material)

General cause of muscle strain include: Not warming up properly before physical activity, Poor flexibility, Poor conditioning, Overexertion and fatigue, Poor posture, etc.

Trapped nerves: A pinched nerve occurs when too much pressure is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues, such as bones, cartilage, muscles or tendons. This pressure disrupts the nerve’s function, causing pain, tingling, numbness or weakness. One of the risk factor here is overuse. Jobs or hobbies that require repetitive hand, wrist or shoulder movements, such as assembly line work, increase the likelihood of developing a trapped nerve.

Hernias: All hernias are caused by a combination of pressure and an opening or weakness of muscle or fascia; the pressure pushes an organ or tissue through the opening or weak spot. Anything that causes an increase in pressure in the abdomen can cause a hernia, including: Lifting heavy objects without stabilizing the abdominal muscles.

Work-related upper limb disorders (WRULDs): They are sometimes called `sprains or strains’, Repetition Strain Injuries
(RSIs) or Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTDs). May also be described  by the medical terms such as tenosynovitis or carpal tunnel syndrome.

Work-related neck and upper limb disorders (WRULDs) are impairments of the bodily structure including tendons, ligaments, nerves, muscles, joints, bones and the localised blood circulation system that are caused primarily by work and the effects of the working environment. They affect the neck, shoulders, and upper limbs (arms, hands, wrists and fingers) and can cause pain, discomfort, numbness and tingling sensations. Sufferers may also
experience swelling in the joints, decreased mobility or grip strength, and a change in skin colour of the hands or fingers. These symptoms can be exacerbated by cold or by the use of hand-held vibrating tools. WRULDs PDF

Back Injury: Back injury is the most common cause of back pain. Injuries frequently occur when one uses his back muscles in activities that he doesn’t do very often, such as lifting a heavy object or doing yard work. Minor injuries also may occur from tripping, falling a short distance, or excessive twisting of the spine.

This injury is mostly expressed by a sensation of sharp pain at the lower back region and can be so uncomfortable and painful. In severe cases, it can hamper posture, movement and indulging in routine activities.  Considering the effect of this injury, it is wise to prevent it instead of planning to manage it. (10 Ways of preventing lower back injury)


The different manual handling injuries takes different lengths of time to appear and also heal. The time taken to heal will depend on the level of damage done in the original incident and the amount of time it is given to heal.

Now that we have discussed major manual handling injuries, we need to understand how to prevent them.

It always said, prevention is better and cheaper than cure. Though most of these injuries can be treated, it is better to prevent them.

See how to prevent manual handling injury


Further Reading

Impact of workplace injury on your business

13 Types of accidents in the workplace


For questions and contributions, contact us today.



By Ubong Edet

A passionate Health and Safety professional with a good level of field experience and relevant certifications including NEBOSH, OSHA, ISO, etc certifications. An Health and Safety activist who believes in the growth and continual improvement of the profession. He is going all out to create awareness and safe precious lives.

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