A survey study of musculoskeletal disorders among eye care physicians compared with family medicine physicians

Ophthalmology. 2012 Feb;119(2):213-20. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2011.06.034. Epub 2011 Sep 16.


Purpose: To evaluate the prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders among eye care physicians compared with family medicine physicians.

Design: Case control study.

Participants and controls: Ophthalmologists and optometrists at the University of Iowa and Mayo Clinic (participants) and family medicine physicians at the University of Iowa and Mayo Clinic (controls).

Methods: An electronic survey was e-mailed to all subjects.

Main outcome measures: The prevalence of musculoskeletal symptoms between eye care providers and family medicine physicians (control group).

Results: One hundred eight-six surveys were completed by 94 eye care physicians and 92 family medicine physicians with a response rate of 99% and 80%, respectively. There were no significant differences between the 2 groups with regard to mean age, gender, body mass index, years with current employer, or years in practice. Eye care providers, compared with their family medicine colleagues, reported a higher prevalence of neck (46% vs 21%; P<0.01), hand/wrist pain (17% vs 7%; P = 0.03), and lower back pain (26% vs 9%; P<0.01). A greater proportion of eye care physicians classified their job as a high-strain job (high demand, low control; 31% vs 20%) and a lower proportion classified their job as an active job (high demand, high control; 24% vs 47%; p = 0.01). Several job factors reported by eye care providers to contribute to musculoskeletal symptoms included performing the same task repeatedly, working in awkward/cramped positions, working in the same position for long periods, and bending/twisting the back (all P<0.01).

Conclusions: In this survey, the study group, composed of ophthalmologists and optometrists, had a higher prevalence of neck, hand/wrist, and lower back pain compared with family medicine physicians; repetitive tasks, prolonged or awkward/cramped positions, and bending/twisting were contributory factors. Given the ramifications of these findings, future efforts should concentrate on modifications to the eye care providers' work environment to prevent or alleviate musculoskeletal disorders and their personal and socioeconomic burden.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers
  • Adult
  • Career Choice
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / epidemiology
  • Ergonomics
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Iowa / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Ophthalmology / statistics & numerical data*
  • Optometry / statistics & numerical data*
  • Physicians / statistics & numerical data
  • Physicians, Family / statistics & numerical data*
  • Posture
  • Prevalence
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Surveys and Questionnaires