AIM: The literature review was carried out to identify and summarize the evidence-base for conservative clinical management of upper limb disorders (ULDs) including specific disorders and non-specific ULDs. METHOD: Keywords were identified through a scoping study and guidance from the project sponsor. A number of databases were searched including Web of Knowledge, Pub Med, Medline, Ergonomics Online, the Cochrane Library and BMJ Clinical Evidence for the years 1993-2004. Abstracts were obtained for papers identified in the search and full papers were obtained for literature, which included diagnostic methods, conservative treatments, new data or results or systematic reviews. RESULTS: The review identified that there is evidence for the efficacy of conservative treatments for the management of carpal tunnel syndrome, epicondylitis, rotator cuff tendonitis and bicipital tendonitis and tension neck syndrome. There was no evidence found to support or refute conservative treatment of tenosynovitis, tendonitis, de Quervain's disease or diffuse non-specific ULDs. CONCLUSION: The evidence reviewed was not always of good quality and data gaps including methodological design issues need to be addressed by future research.