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Musculoskeletal injuries

Musculoskeletal injuries (MSKI)

Musculoskeletal injuries (MSKI) was the principle cause of medical discharge in the Army during the period of 2012-2017.  Whilst the Army acknowledges that certain amount of MSKI cannot be avoided due to the nature of the roles undertaken, many MSKI can be prevented.  This section of the Healthy Soldier Toolbox will provide you with basic information of how to avoid MSKI.  

Related health topics  

Poor nutrition, sleep deprivation, poor physical fitness, smoking and obesity are all linked to MSKI.  Therefore it is worth reading the other sections of the Healthy Soldier Toolbox if any of the health matters concerns you. 

What can cause MSKI?

As well as the above, there are common mistakes in physical training which can lead to MSKI.  Whilst broken bones and bruising cannot be fully prevented, injuries from poor physical training can be. 

Causes of MSKI are:

  • Doing repetitive load bearing (running/ marching with weight) with inadequate rest periods in-between.  
  • Not being sufficiently trained for the activity you are about to undertake .
  • You are already carrying some ‘niggles’ from training and have not had time to rest. 
  • You are tired, have not eaten properly,
  • You are overweight.
  • You do not do any strength and conditioning physical training. 
  • Poor footwear.

What can I do to prevent MSKI?

Before joining the Army there are several ways you can gain information on physical training, whether this is from a gym instructor, internet searches or health magazine.  However – you must avoid ‘fads’ in training!  Crossfit is great for those with a good baseline of fitness, but probably not the best place to start if you are a couch potato.  

If you are in the military then the best person to speak to regarding avoiding MSKI is your Royal Army Physical Training Corp Instructor.  Medical professionals can also provide information on training (like a physiotherapist or Exercise Rehabilitation Instructor) but you may not have readily available access to them.

What do I do if I have a MSKI?

MSKI, for the most part are manageable.  The first thing you must do is not panic.  Some people in the Army have the belief that if you have a MSKI then you will be ‘discharged’ from the forces, this is NOT the case in the majority of cases. However, if you try to ignore the injury and not seek advice then it is likely to get worse and cause more permanent injury.  

The following should be done if you feel you have a MSKI:

  • If it is swollen, use ice, compression and elevation to reduce this. If the injury is very swollen, red and the pain is constant then you must seek immediate medical advice.  
  • Rest the injured area from the activity that brings on pain (you may still be able to do other physical exercise though like swimming).
  • Seek medical advice if the symptoms do not reduce after 3 days.
  • Talk to your chain of command if you are in the Army – likelihood is that during their career they will have also had a MSKI!

More detailed information pertaining to Musculoskeletal Injury Management can be found at the link on the right hand side of the page.

The Big 5

The British Army has developed a full body workout programme called the ‘Big 5’, which can be done by anyone, anywhere without the requirement for expensive gymnasium equipment.  

The exercises are designed to improve core stability and enhance overall health and wellbeing as well as reduce the risk of injury to those who do little to no physical activity.  

Fitting some physical activity into your day is easier than you think and is essential to staying healthy or improving your health.