Professional experience, work setting, work posture and workload influence the risk for musculoskeletal pain among physical therapists: a cross-sectional study

Abstract

Purpose

Physical therapists (PTs) have a high risk of developing musculoskeletal pain (MP) due to the physically demanding nature of their work tasks. Experience or the specialty area, have been associated with MP, however, previous studies are few and small. The aim of this study was to investigate the association between work-related factors and MP among PTs.

Methods

In this cross-sectional study, we collected information about MP and work-related factors of 1006 PTs using an online questionnaire. Associations between various work-related factors and MP were modelled using logistic regression controlled for various confounders.

Results

Neck (57%) and low back pain (49%) were most common. Work-related factors associated with higher risk for having moderate-to-high MP (≥ 3 on a scale of 0–10) were “treating more patients at the same time” [OR 2.14 (95% CI 1.53–2.99)], “working ≥45 h per week” [OR 1.73 (95% CI 1.05–2.84)], and “work in a seated position” [OR 2.04 (95% CI 1.16–3.57)] for the low back. “More years of experience” showed a negative association for elbow pain [OR 0.41 (95% CI 0.21–0.78)] and low back pain [OR 0.48 (95% CI 0.29–0.79)] compared with their less experienced counterparts.

Conclusions

The lack of professional experience, working in private clinics, working in a seated position and high workload are associated with the higher risk for MP among PTs. These results add further insight about the relevance of such factors, which might be considered for developing effective interventions to prevent work-related MP and better working conditions among PTs.

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Funding

No funding or grant from any commercial source was involved in this study. The authors thank the participants for their contribution to the study

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Correspondence to Joaquín Calatayud.

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The authors of this study declare that they have any conflict of interest

Ethical approval

This study received ethical approval by the University of Valencia’s Ethical Committee (H1530736596718), and has been performed in accordance with the ethical standards as laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Ezzatvar, Y., Calatayud, J., Andersen, L.L. et al. Professional experience, work setting, work posture and workload influence the risk for musculoskeletal pain among physical therapists: a cross-sectional study. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 93, 189–196 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00420-019-01468-7

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Keywords

  • Musculoskeletal
  • Health care workers
  • Physical work
  • Workload