Background: Chiropractors are a particular subset of health care professionals that reportedly suffer occupational musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), yet they have received minimal attention to date regarding mitigating risks of occupational injury. Our study determined the prevalence of occupationally-related MSDs in the preceding year, their bodily distribution, severity, and practice-related changes in practicing chiropractors in the province of Ontario.
Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional survey of chiropractors who were members of the Ontario Chiropractic Association (OCA) from January to March 2019. A three-part online survey was developed to ask chiropractors about specific details of MSDs they experienced in the past year and any practice-related changes they made as a result. Responses from participants provided both quantitative and qualitative data. Prevalence estimates were derived for quantitative data. Qualitative data were stratified by themes that were further divided into categories and subcategories. Demographic variables of the respondents and OCA membership were compared to determine representativeness.
Results: From the 432 responses (11.8% response rate), 59.1% reported experiencing an occupationally-related MSD in the past year. Survey respondents were demographically representative of the OCA membership. MSDs were most commonly reported for the lower back (38.3%), wrists/hands (38.1%) and neck (37.4%). Positioning/performing manipulation was the most common occupational activity for MSD of the upper extremity (53.1%) and lower back (34.8%). Chiropractors largely reported their MSDs did not prevent them from doing their normal work (77.4%), despite the fact that 43.2% reported experiencing their MSDs for more than 30 days in the previous year. Common reported work modifications were grouped under themes of practice and physical changes. Practice changes included reducing patient volume, hiring personnel and scheduling. Physical changes included using different office equipment, selecting different techniques requiring lower force and altering their hand contacts or body position when treating patients.
Conclusions: One-year prevalence of occupational MSDs from this study are comparable to previously reported estimates in chiropractors. These data suggest that chiropractors continue with their regular workload despite their MSDs, thereby increasing their chances of presenteeism. Chiropractors changing technique or technique parameters due to their MSDs provides direction for future research to reduce exposure to occupational MSD risk factors.
Author keywords: Chiropractic — Standardised Nordic musculoskeletal questionnaire — Manual therapy — Occupational injuries — Workplace health and safety
Author affiliations: SJH, AA, SH-J, SM: Division of Research and Innovation, Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, Toronto, Ontario, Canada;
SJH: Human Performance Research, McMorland Family Research Chair in Mechanobiology, Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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