Recent reviews on musculoskeletal disorders have clearly pointed out the need for more good-quality original research. Both symptom-based and objective outcome assessment methods should be improved. A variety of methods exists to assess exposure for short-term outcomes, whereas exposure assessment strategies for outcomes with long induction times should be developed. The change in exposure patterns--less force demands, more static, visual, cognitive, psychological and social load--will continue during the next millennium, and a likely result is a change in the disease panorama. The pathomechanisms of the effects of low-level static contractions and adverse psychosocial conditions need clarification. Genetic epidemiology is an emerging field of research, and it will be particularly interesting to study the interaction between genetically determined susceptibility and occupational risk factors. Because degeneration of the spine starts in adolescence, the importance of studying the etiology of degenerative disorders among young populations is emphasized.