Musculoskeletal Disorders in the Workplace of Physiotherapists: Occupational Risk Factors and Their Role in Prevention and Management: A Systematic Review




Musculoskeletal disorders at work, occupational risk factors, physiotherapists


BACKGROUND: Since musculoskeletal disorders at work (MSDW) are very common among physiotherapists, we must introduce strategies that could help reduce their prevalence. The main objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of MSDW among physiotherapists, which parts of the body are most often affected, what are the ergonomic risk factors for MSDW among physiotherapists and what are strategies to reduce them.

METHODS: In the systematic literature review, involving a total of 2127 physiotherapists, search terms such as occupational musculoskeletal disorders, physiotherapists, and occupational risk factors were used in the SCOPUS (n = 24), MEDLINE (n = 2), ScienceDirect (n = 103), PEDro (n = 0), Cumulative index of the nursing and allied health literature (n = 3), and PubMed (n = 30) databases in February 2024. The search included only original studies published in English, cross-sectional studies published in thepast 10 years, studies that included the prevalence of MSDW, and studies that included risk factors for MSDW. In the end, we included eight studies in the systematic review.

RESULTS: A systematic review of eight studies highlighted the prevalence and risk factors associated with MSDW among physiotherapists. The studies were conducted on samples ranging in size from 75 to 501 individuals and focused on determining the prevalence of MSDW and identifying the associated risk factors. The prevalence rates differ, with the lower back region being the most affected region in all studies (38–68.8%), followed by the neck (10–59.2%) and the shoulder girdle (7–51.7%). Risk factors included back strain, awkward posture, prolonged posture, frequent bending/turning of the trunk, performing manual therapy techniques, patient lifting, repetitive tasks, work environment, and psychosocial issues. Reported coping strategies included changing one’s working posture, improving one’s body mechanics, and taking more breaks during the workday.

CONCLUSION: Our systematic review of the literature revealed a high prevalence of MSDW among physical therapists (up to 92%) and highlighted the urgent need for strategies to mitigate this widespread problem. These findings highlight the multifaceted nature of the etiology of MSDW and point to the interplay of physical demands, ergonomic challenges, and psychological stressors that characterize the profession of a physical therapist.


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How to Cite

Kotnik P, Koprivnik N. Musculoskeletal Disorders in the Workplace of Physiotherapists: Occupational Risk Factors and Their Role in Prevention and Management: A Systematic Review. Open Access Maced J Med Sci [Internet]. 2024 Jun. 15 [cited 2024 Jul. 23];12(2):347-55. Available from:



Systematic Review Article