Ireland and Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)
It is difficult to quantify precisely the extent of MSDs in the working age population of Ireland due to inadequate data. Despite this, there is sufficient evidence in Ireland to argue strongly for MSDs to be a policy priority in the coming years. Two of these key reasons are:
1. The Irish workforce is ageing and, with it, the risk of increasing MSD prevalence over the next 20 or 30 years. Experience from economies with older age distributions shows that the burden of MSDs can have significant economic and social consequences
2. The growth of obesity in Ireland is a risk factor for bone and joint conditions. Data suggests that Ireland has the fourth highest prevalence of overweight and obese men in the EU and there are 300,000 Irish children who are clinically obese, with those numbers increasing by 10,000 each year.
In Ireland, the Department of Social Protection includes only the following MSDs on its register of occupational diseases:
- Bursae (elbow and knee)
- Cramps in the hand or forearm due to repetitive movements
- Inflammation of the tendons of the hand or forearm
- White finger
- Paralysis of the ulnar nerve
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Lateral epicondylitis
These conditions focus predominantly on upper limb disorders, while other EU countries more frequently include low back pain, inflammatory conditions and spinal conditions. This suggests that Ireland’s official definition of MSDs may be unhelpfully narrow.