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Am J Ind Med. 2012 Apr;55(4):376-89. doi: 10.1002/ajim.22001. Epub 2011 Dec 27.

Risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders among farm owners and farm workers: a systematic review.

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Rural Economy Development Programme, Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland.



A systematic review was undertaken to establish risk factors for the development of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) among farmers.


Comprehensive electronic searches of Pubmed, Web of Science, CINAHL, SCOPUS, EMBASE, Agris Database, and Cochrane Library were carried out using a battery of key words for MSDs and farmers. The studies methods quality was assessed using a standardized checklist.


Thirty-three studies fulfilled the inclusion criteria. The median method score was 65% of the maximum attainable score, resulting in 15 studies of higher methodological. Risks were categorized into: Work characteristics (n = 11), personal characteristics (n = 5), and psychosocial factors (n = 5). Spinal MSD risk factors include exposure to working in tree crops, vibration, postural load, being an owner operator, age, education beyond high school, suffering from asthma or depression, having <8 hr nightly sleep, bad quality sleep, and geographic location. Upper extremity MSD risk factors include being an owner operator, dust with pig workers, numbness and coldness in younger milkers and numbness in milkers >43 years, age, and body height in dairy farmers. Lower extremity MSD risk factors include, duration of farming ≥10 years, working >5 hr daily in animal barns, milking >40 cows, years as a dairy farmer, farm work, age, body mass, and female gender.


In exploring risk factors the spine was the most researched body region, followed by lower and upper extremity. Given the variance between studies, it is recommended that future studies focus on specific types of farmers and should explore specific exposures for specific body parts using standardized case definitions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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