The prevalence and nature of work related musculoskeletal disorders amongst phsiotherapists in Zimbabwe
Pfumojena, Chido Carol
Work related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD) are induced or aggravated by work and the circumstances of its performance (World Health Organization 2003). Physiotherapists are at risk of work related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD) due to the physically demanding nature of their job. The aim of this study was to establish the prevalence and nature of WMSD amongst physiotherapists in Zimbabwe and the coping mechanisms used to manage them. A cross-sectional quantitative descriptive study design was used and data was collected using a self-administered questionnaire that was either emailed, hand delivered or posted to participants. There were 101 participants making a response rate of 56.4%. There were more female (60.4%) than male (39.6%) physiotherapists. Physiotherapists were mainly working in government (30.7%) and undertaking general practice. The career prevalence of WMSD amongst physiotherapists in Zimbabwe was 86.1% (n=87). The highest prevalence of WMSD was in the low back (79.3%) (n=69). The major risk factor to WMSD amongst physiotherapists in Zimbabwe was “treating a large number of patients a day” and “inadequate training in injury prevention” was a minor risk factor. The most common coping mechanism used by physiotherapists in Zimbabwe to reduce strain on their bodies when working was “modifying the patient‟s/physiotherapist‟s position”. It was found that physiotherapists in Zimbabwe only “sometimes” used coping mechanisms thought to be effective in reducing strain on their bodies. The greatest impact WMSD had on the work of physiotherapists was modifying their physiotherapy techniques. The prevalence of WMSD was found to be high amongst physiotherapists in Zimbabwe and the low back was the area of the body most affected. Physiotherapists in Zimbabwe were faced with having to treat large numbers of patients a day and as a result they had to modify the patient‟s position, their position and their physiotherapy techniques. Despite the high career prevalence of WMSD amongst Zimbabwean physiotherapists, they were neither changing their duties nor considering leaving the profession or retiring early. It is recommended that risk assessment and control of WMSD be on-going in Zimbabwean health institutions to help minimize them and their effects amongst physiotherapists. It is also recommended that research be conducted into the psychosocial effects of WMSD on the lives of physiotherapists. It is also recommended that health promotion on WMSD be on-going amongst physiotherapists in Zimbabwe.
A research report submitted to the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Physiotherapy. Johannesburg, 2015