Practising physiotherapy can involve a lot of physical effort. Studies have revealed that work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSDs) in physiotherapists are common, with over 60% of physios expected to experience pain and discomfort. Pain is most commonly experienced in the upper and lower back, the neck, shoulders, wrists, hands and ankles. Some physiotherapists are forced to leave the profession due to WRMSDs.
Major risk factors contributing to musculoskeletal disorders in physios include treatments such as manual therapy, exerting force, repetitive movements, continuous bending, patient transfer, or unanticipated movements and a restricted work area. A considerable relationship between MSDs and occupational risk factors involving repetitive tasks, excessive force and awkward poses were also seen in the literature.
A study involving 50 physiotherapists and 50 clerical workers from the same three rehabilitation hospitals in Northern Italy, data showed that there is a significantly higher prevalence of low back symptoms and upper limb symptoms in physios than with clerical workers. Other conditions with an increased prevalence in physiotherapists included lumbar disk degeneration, shoulder disorders, and wrist and hand tendinopathy.
The RECOUP Neuromusculoskeletal Rehabilitation Centre in India was involved in researching work-related musculoskeletal disorders in physiotherapists. The study involved a questionnaire, where 80% of respondents were in the first 5 years of their physiotherapy career, 48% were aged 25 to 30 years and 80% were in the orthopaedic area of specialization. 87% of the physiotherapists said they worked through pain.
With these statistics, it is obvious that physiotherapists and physiotherapy students need to consider their physical capabilities and ensure that their self-care needs are met if they would like a long career as a clinician.