Perceived physical demands and reported musculoskeletal problems in registered nurses

Am J Prev Med. 2003 Apr;24(3):270-5. doi: 10.1016/s0749-3797(02)00639-6.


Background: Nursing is physically demanding, and nurses have higher rates of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) than most other occupational groups. The physical demands of nursing may lead some nurses to leave the profession, contributing to the shortage of registered nurses in many workplaces that is a major concern today. As a first step toward reducing MSDs and their consequences, this study was designed to examine the relationship between perceived physical demands and reported neck, shoulder, and back MSDs in nurses.

Methods: Data were collected anonymously from 1163 randomly selected working nurses (74% response rate) using a cross-sectional survey. The 12-item survey scale (internal reliability coefficient=0.89), rated perceived physical demands such as force, awkward postures, and heavy lifting. Nurses with a presumed MSD case reported relevant past-year symptoms in the neck, shoulder, and/or back lasting >or=1 weeks, or at least monthly, with moderate or more pain, on average.

Results: Moderate and high perceived physical demands were significantly associated with reported neck, shoulder, and back MSD cases, even after adjustments for demographic and lifestyle-related covariates. Adjusted odds ratios for highly demanding work (vs low) ranged from 4.98 to 6.13 depending on body site. When analyses were restricted to staff nurses only, the odds ranged from 9.05 to 11.99.

Conclusions: Perceived physical demands are associated with reported MSD in registered nurses, and the association is stronger in staff nurses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Back
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Maryland / epidemiology
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Neck
  • Nursing*
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Shoulder