Musculoskeletal symptoms in self-employed versus employed therapists: the role of training and social support

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Hogan, Dervla A.
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University College Cork
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Introduction The overarching aim for this thesis was to develop a scientific evidence base to assist in the prevention of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSDs) by investigating the potential risk factors of WRMSDs in both employed and self-employed Chartered Physiotherapists (CPTs) and Physical Therapists/Athletic Therapists (PTs/ATs) in the Irish context and the effectiveness of current risk reduction strategies. Methods The Health In hand-intensive Tasks and Safety (HITS) study was a cross-sectional study investigating WRMSDs in practicing chartered physiotherapists, physical therapists and athletic therapists (n=347). The Survey on Lifestyle, Attitudes and Nutrition (SLÁN) 2007 was a nationally representative survey, with the working population included in this thesis (n=5,862). Results When compared with the national working population, therapists were nearly five times more likely to suffer from low back pain, after careful adjustment for differences in sociodemographics [adjusted OR 4.8, 95% CI (3.8–6.1)] (P<0.001). Self-employed therapists have a higher prevalence of upper limb pain/discomfort (86.6%) compared to employed therapists (76.8%) (P=0.04). Conversely, when it comes to incapacitating upper limb symptoms employed therapists have a higher prevalence (32.7%) compared to self-employed therapists (21.5%) (P=0.04). In relation to upper limb pain/discomfort, supervisor support was seen as protective in employed therapists (P=0.05), however, peer support didn’t indicate any significant findings. On the other hand, low levels of peer support were identified as a risk factor for the prevalence of incapacitating upper limb pain/discomfort in both employed and self-employed therapists (P=0.03 and P≤0.01, respectively). Discussion This thesis indicates that future research needs to focus on both employed and self-employed workers’ health and wellbeing to explicitly examine the effects of work on today’s changing workforce. Further investigation is required in relation to WRMSD prevalence and related factors in employed and self-employed therapists through both qualitative and quantitative methods with the use of more objective measures.
Work-related musculoskeletal disorder , Prevalence , Physiotherapist , Physical therapist , Upper limb disorders , Health and social care sector , Training , Social support , Employment status , Self-employment
Hogan, D. Á. 2017. Musculoskeletal symptoms in self-employed versus employed therapists: the role of training and social support. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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