Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2016

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Culp, Ken

First Committee Member

Donham, Kelley

Second Committee Member

Gardner, Sue

Third Committee Member

Herr, Keela

Fourth Committee Member

Rakel, Barb


Farmers and farmworkers are at a high risk for development of musculoskeletal symptoms due to the physically demanding nature of their work environment, the repetitive nature of many agricultural tasks, and the time-dependent nature of agricultural work that often requires greater than full-time hours at various times of the year. The purpose of this dissertation was to gain a better understanding of musculoskeletal symptom prevalence in Iowa farmers, examine age-related effects, determine how those symptoms related to safety on the farm, and to determine musculoskeletal symptom prevalence in migrant farmworkers in Iowa on H-2A Visas.

Study data of 438 Iowa farmers was examined retrospectively through a cross-sectional survey that examined musculoskeletal symptoms prevalence, safety scores of the farm environment, and health-seeking behaviors of this population. This study found prevalence rates that varied from 28% (elbow) to 73% (back) with 4.15 (S.D. = 2.75) average painful joints. More farmers in the older age category were in the lower safety category. Significant predictors of seeking healthcare due to musculoskeletal symptoms included arthritis, employee help on the farm, hip pain, or upper back pain.

Migrant farmworkers who were in Iowa on an H-2A Visa for agricultural work were surveyed about their musculoskeletal symptom prevalence at the beginning of their work contract in Iowa. The data from these 180 migrant farmworkers was compared to the National Agricultural Workers Survey. A chart review was completed that provided information about musculoskeletal symptoms throughout the contracted work period and also information about the treatment provided through the non-profit migrant health clinic. Baseline prevalence varied from 1.4% (hip) to 15.9% (neck) with 56 (39.7%) workers reporting 1 or more painful joints. Throughout the contracted work, 33.6% of visits were attributed to musculoskeletal complaints with farmworkers over 35 being 2.5 times more likely to have musculoskeletal complaints (OR = 2.5; 95% CI: 1.1-5.5).

The information from these studies provides support for the need to develop and test interventions to prevent musculoskeletal symptom development in agricultural worker populations.


agriculture, migrant farmworkers, musculoskeletal, nursing


xii, 90 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 74-83).


Copyright © 2016 Shalome Tonelli

Included in

Nursing Commons