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Ergonomic practices within patient care units are associated with musculoskeletal pain and limitations.

Dennerlein JT; Hopcia K; Sembajwe G; Kenwood C; Stoddard AM; Tveito TH; Hashimoto DM; Sorensen G
Am J Ind Med 2012 Feb; 55(2):107-116
Background: With the high prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) for patient care unit workers, prevention efforts through ergonomic practices within units may be related to symptoms associated with typical work-related MSDs. Methods: We completed a cross-sectional survey of patient care workers (n = 1,572) in two large academic hospitals in order to evaluate relationships between self-reported musculoskeletal pain, work interference due to this pain, and limitations during activities of daily living (functional limitations) and with ergonomic practices and other organizational policy and practices metrics within the unit. Bivariate and multiple logistic regression analyses tested the significance of these associations. Results: Prevalence of self-reported musculoskeletal symptoms in the past 3 months was 74% with 53% reporting pain in the low back. 32.8% reported that this pain interfered with their work duties and 17.7% reported functional limitations in the prior week. Decreased ergonomic practices were significantly associated with reporting pain in four body areas (low back, neck/shoulder, arms, and lower extremity) in the previous 3 months, interference with work caused by this pain, symptom severity, and limitations in completing activities of daily living in the past week. Except for low back pain and work interference, these associations remained significant when psychosocial covariates such as psychological demands were included in multiple logistic regressions. Conclusions: Ergonomic practices appear to be associated with many of the musculoskeletal symptoms denoting their importance for prevention efforts in acute health care settings.
Health-care; Health-care-personnel; Ergonomics; Musculoskeletal-system-disorders; Medical-services; Nurses; Work-practices; Worker-health; Injury-prevention; Work-organization; Health-surveys; Work-analysis; Work-capability; Statistical-analysis; Back-injuries; Pain-tolerance; Total-Worker-Health; Author Keywords: musculoskeletal symptoms; health care; ergonomics; low back pain; organizational policy and practice
JackT. Dennerlein, PhD, Harvard School of Public Health, 665 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115
Publication Date
Document Type
Journal Article
Email Address
Funding Type
Cooperative Agreement
Fiscal Year
Identifying No.
Cooperative-Agreement-Number-U19-OH-008861; B02012012
Issue of Publication
Priority Area
Construction; Healthcare and Social Assistance
Source Name
American Journal of Industrial Medicine
Performing Organization
Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts
Page last reviewed: July 15, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division