Prevalence of Musculoskeletal Disorders for Nurses in Hospitals, Long-Term Care Facilities, and Home Health Care: A Comprehensive Review

Hum Factors. 2015 Aug;57(5):754-92. doi: 10.1177/0018720815581933. Epub 2015 Apr 21.


Objective: The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of musculoskeletal pain and reported injuries for nurses and nursing aides.

Background: Nurses and nursing aides suffer from work-related pain and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Although there have been a plethora of studies on MSDs, an overall understanding of the prevalence of MSDs and pain can lead to better prioritization of research needs with respect to the health care industry.

Method: A total of 132 articles on prevalence of MSD pain and injuries were included in the review. All articles were published in peer-reviewed English-speaking journals and subjected to a quality review.

Results: Reported prevalence of MSD pain for nurses and nursing aides was highest in the low back, followed by shoulders and neck. However, the majority of the studies have been concentrated on 12-month pain in the low back and predominantly in hospitals. Few researchers have investigated pain in the upper and lower extremities (less than 27% of the studies). Even fewer researchers have evaluated reported injuries or even subjective lost-time injuries (less than 15% of the studies).

Conclusion: MSD pain in the nursing profession has been widely investigated worldwide, with a major focus on low-back pain. Given new directions in health care, such as patients who live longer with more chronic diseases, bariatric patients, early mobility requirements, and those who want to be at home during sickness, higher prevalence levels may shift to different populations--home health care workers, long-term care workers, and physical therapists--as well as shift to different body regions, such as shoulders and upper extremities.

Keywords: anthropometry; biomechanics; health care/health systems; low back; musculoskeletal system (musculoskeletal disorders, cumulative trauma disorder); nursing and nursing systems; spine; upper extremity; work physiology; wrist.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Long-Term Care
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / epidemiology*
  • Musculoskeletal System / injuries*
  • Nurses / statistics & numerical data*
  • Nurses, Community Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*