Work-related musculoskeletal disorders among physical therapists: A comprehensive narrative review

Mohammad Milhem, Leonid Kalichman, David Ezra, Deborah Alperovitch-Najenson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Healthcare workers, especially those with direct patient contact are amongst professions with the highest rate of workrelated musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs), physical therapists (PTs) being one of them. Our objective was to review current knowledge relating to the prevalence, risk factors and prevention of WMSDs among PTs. Pubmed, Google Scholar and PEDro databases were searched for terms relating to WMSDs in PTs from inception to 2015. The prevalence of WMSDs among PTs was high, with lifetime prevalence reported as 55-91%, and 12-month prevalence ranges 40-91.3%, and the lower back as the most frequently affected, with estimates of a lifetime prevalence ranging 26-79.6%, and a 12-month prevalence ranging 22-73.1%, followed most often by the neck, upper back and shoulders. The major risk factors for workrelated low back pain (LBP) were: lifting, transferring, repetitive movements, awkward and static postures, physical load, treating a large number of patients in a single day and working while injured. Low back pain seems to be age- and genderrelated with a higher prevalence in females, younger PTs and PTs working in rehabilitation settings. Physical therapists, as a consequence of work-related LBP, may seek treatment, modify their daily living and leisure (lifestyle) activities, use AIDS and equipment or change their specialty area either within the profession or by leaving it. Skills and knowledge as to correct body mechanics do not prevent work-related injuries. Mechanical AIDS used for a patient transfer should be adopted by PTs and new strategies should be developed to reduce their WMSDs without compromising the quality of treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)735-747
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Physical therapists
  • Prevention
  • Risk factors
  • Work related
  • Work settings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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