WMSD Claim Tracking

What are work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs)?

WMSDs are conditions that disturb or disrupt the functions of the musculoskeletal system, and are caused or exacerbated by work. These conditions typically affect soft tissues such as joints, nerves, tendons, ligaments, muscles, blood vessels, cartilage, or spinal discs. WMSDs can be painful and debilitating.

WMSDs occur when the physical requirements (intensity, frequency, and duration) of the job exceed the physical capacity of the human body. WMSDs are generally caused by overuse or overexertion, repetitive motions or postures, unnatural positions, and/or vibration. WMSDs do not include injuries resulting from impact, such as falls, struck by or against, cuts, or motor vehicle crashes.

WMSDs often develop gradually over time, with an accumulation of exposures leading to wear and tear on the body. WMSDs may also appear as an immediate effect of certain exposures, more common with high-force exertions.

Examples include:

  • Back sprains (injury to ligaments) and strains (injury to muscles or tendons).
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome (the compression of the median nerve in the wrist).
  • Epicondylitis (swelling of the tendon at the elbow).
  • Rotator cuff syndrome (swelling and tearing of the tendons around the shoulder).
  • Sciatica (pain radiating from the lower back to below the knee).

Why do we track WMSDs?
WMSDs are the leading type of occupational injury in Washington State. They are costly to workers and their families, industry, and the workers’ compensation system. We track WMSD trends and patterns to identify areas of need and make recommendations for prevention.


How do we track WMSDs?

The Washington State Labor and Industries workers’ compensation system is the primary data source we use for tracking WMSDs. This system captures all workers’ compensation claims submitted in the state. We identify workers’ compensation claims for WMSDs using the Occupational Injury and Illness Classification System (OIICS) or the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) with Clinical Modification (CM) codes.

Not all WMSDs can be captured using the workers’ compensation system. WMSDs not medically treated, or those treated but not paid for by workers’ compensation (e.g., out of pocket, private insurance or federal programs) are not captured here.


WMSD claims snapshots

Retail Trade

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)




Work-related musculoskeletal disorder (WMSD) claims and costs

Technical Reports

Case Definition for Surveillance of Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSDs) in the Washington Workers’ Compensation System

Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders of the Back, Upper Extremity,
and Knee in Washington State, 2006-2015 All Washington Industries

Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders of the Back, Upper Extremity, and Knee in Washington State, 2002-2010 Summary

Journal Articles

Marcum J and Adams D (2017). Work-related musculoskeletal disorder surveillance using the Washington state workers’ compensation system: Recent declines and patterns by industry, 1999-2013. American Journal of Industrial Medicine DOI: 10.1002/ajim.22708. Research Findings

Silverstein B, Viikari-Juntura E, and Kalat, J (2002). Use of a prevention index to identify industries at high risk for work-related musculoskeletal disorders of the neck, back, and upper extremity in Washington State, 1990-1998. American Journal of Industrial Medicine DOI: 10.1002/ajim.10054.