Background and Purpose. Increasing evidence suggests that musculoskeletal disorders are common in workers in the United States health care industry. Physical therapists, who commonly treat patients with these disorders, are also at risk for work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMD) in the upper limbs and low back. The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of WMD during a 12-month period and the job factors that may be associated with these disorders in physical therapists. Subjects. A four-page questionnaire was mailed to physical therapists (N=1,160) who attended The University of Iowa between 1943 and 1993. Nine hundred twenty-eight questionnaires were returned (80% response rate) from physical therapists in 46 states. Methods. Based on a literature review and pilot study of physical therapists, a survey instrument was constructed consisting of a symptom survey, a job-factor survey, and various demographic information. Results. The highest prevalences of WMD among physical therapists were in the following anatomical areas: low back (45%), wrist/hand (29.6%), upper back (28.7%), and neck (24.7%). The job factor rated most likely to contribute to job-related musculoskeletal disorders was "lifting or transferring dependent patients." The prevalence of WMD in physical therapists also was affected by work setting, practice specialty, age of patient, and gender of therapist. Conclusion and Discussion. Specific strategies should be developed to reduce WMD in the practice of physical therapy.
Journal Article Version
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Published Article/Book Citation
Physical Therapy, 76:8 (1996) pp.827-835.
Copyright © The American Physical Therapy Association, 1996. Posted by permission.