Musculoskeletal disorders are the most common cause of long-term sick leave in several western countries and individuals with chronic musculoskeletal pain score very low on health status measurements. Musculoskeletal health is multidimensional and is best understood from a biopsychosocial perspective. Body structure and function interacts with personal and environmental factors, affecting the ability to perform activities and participate in society. Interventions aimed at the whole population must attend to the underlying causes of musculoskeletal disorders and promote a healthy lifestyle. Safe environments and activities could reduce the risk of traumatic events and also make participation possible for those with a disability. Public beliefs about musculoskeletal symptoms and consequences need to be changed in order to minimise fear and avoidance, which, together with other psychosocial factors, could lead to chronicity. Public awareness and identification of those at risk for the development of musculoskeletal problems could lead to early and properly timed management.