This framework can accommodate the diverse literatures regarding musculoskeletal disorders by characterizing the pathways that each study addresses. For example, an epidemiological investigation might explore the pathways between the physical work environment and the reporting of impairments or the pathway between organizational factors and the reporting of symptoms. An ergonomic study might explore the pathways between work procedures and equipment and the biomechanical loads imposed on a tissue. This framework also focuses attention on the interactions among factors. For example, the combination of a particular set of work procedures and organizational factors might produce an increase in disorders that neither would alone produce.

Looking at the evidence as a whole provides a sounder basis for understanding the overall dimensions of the problem of work-related musculoskeletal disorders than restricting an examination to any one factor or kind of evidence. It also places individual studies in context, by showing the factors and pathways that they do and do not address.

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