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J Occup Rehabil. 2009 Sep;19(3):274-83. doi: 10.1007/s10926-009-9184-1. Epub 2009 Jun 6.

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders and injuries: differences among older and younger occupational and physical therapists.

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College of Health Sciences, Department of Occupational Therapy, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, P.O. Box 413, Milwaukee, WI 53201, USA.



Occupational and physical therapists are at significant risk of work-related musculoskeletal disorders and injuries. As the therapy workforce ages, and shortages of therapists are predicted, it is important to evaluate differences in injuries and injury behaviors between older and younger therapists.


Half of all occupational and physical therapists practicing in Wisconsin were randomly selected for a cross sectional study examining the relationship between aging and characteristics of self-reported work injuries and musculoskeletal symptoms.


Data from a sample of 1,158 therapists revealed older workers to have similar injury incidence rates, however, days away from work due to injury were higher among older workers. Overall, older and younger therapists were more similar than different, especially in regards to work behaviors. Older therapists tended to report more severe pain symptoms than younger therapists and were two and a half times more likely to report that they changed jobs due to their pain symptoms.


Older and younger therapists have similar work-related injury experiences. Older workers may be more vulnerable to lost work time and may experience more severe pain symptoms. Many interventions exist to prevent work-related injuries to therapists and more guidance in the best way to integrate these interventions (e.g., mechanical lift devices) into therapy practice is needed.

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