Easier working with arms held up with an exoskeleton

Prolonged working with your arms elevated is harmful to the musculature of the upper limbs and shoulder region and increases the risk of musculoskeletal problems. Efforts have been made to reduce the risk by, for example, work ergonomics and breaks, but there is still a need to reduce the physical stress. Now, artificial external skeletons, or exoskeletons, are coming to help people involved in physical work. In order to make effective use of modern exoskeleton technologies in lightening workloads, measured data on their impact is needed.

miehen päällä eksoskeleton eli ulkoinen tukiranka




In Finland, 9% of the workforce works more than 1–2 hours a day with their arms held at the shoulder level or above. Installation work, painting and work tasks in the construction, automobile and metal industries are typically carried out with arms in an elevated position. Other professionals, such as dentists and hairdressers, are also engaged in work with their arms raised. Working with your arms in an elevated position is connected to neck and shoulder problems. Working while holding upper arms at an angle of more than 90° increases the risk of shoulder impingement syndrome even if the work is done for less than an hour a day.

Manufacturers of exoskeletons, i.e. external skeletons, recommend the device as an effective tool for lightening the workload. So far, measured data on the effects of their use are extremely limited. According to subjective estimates, they have positive effects, but due to their weight, for example, they can also have a negative impact.

The aim of this study is to find out how the external skeletons affect stress at work. If the results are positive, an exoskeleton can be a modern, simple and easy to use method to reduce stress on upper limbs and the upper body.


The Finnish Work Environment Fund, The Confederation of Finnish Construction Industries RT, Ramirent Finland Oy, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health

Data and methods

The Easier working with arms held up with an exoskeleton (2020–2021) project combines standardized laboratory research with field research and testing the results in authentic work settings.

Results and impact

Based on the results, an evaluation tool will be created, which will enable an assessment of when and in what types of jobs the use of exoskeletons is justified. Co-operation with industrial workplaces will contribute to the implementation of the recommendations and the methodology.

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Juha Oksa

Juha Oksa

juha.oksa [at]
+358 30 474 6094