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Physios’ MSK pain audit raises questions

4 December 2014 - 3:46pm

An audit by an occupational health physiotherapist has questioned the conventional wisdom that the most common cause of musculoskeletal (MSK) pain among NHS staff is lower back pain.

Homerton pain clinic. Photo: Jess Hurd

The audit discovered that while the most common MSK symptoms were reported in the mid-lower back, more staff had experienced pain elsewhere. Photo: Jess Hurd

Jayanti Rai surveyed 639 staff at her place of work, East Kent Hospitals University NHS trust, and found more neck, shoulder and upper back pain than lower back problems.

Manual handling training across the trust relates mainly to lower back injuries, and Ms Rai said it may be time to consider training to prevent upper quadrant symptoms as well.

Her audit found that although the most common MSK symptoms were reported in the mid-lower back (49 per cent), more staff had experienced pain in their combined upper torso – neck (46 per cent), shoulder (40 per cent), and upper back (34 per cent).

Ms Rai accepted her audit had limitations and said she also found that there was no clear correlation between a person’s occupation and the body part that was affected.

Now she is planning to see whether there are links between certain job types and specific MSK symptoms. This could help the trust to develop preventive strategies and provide occupation-specific manual handling advice to high risk occupations.

CSP professional adviser Steve Tolan said this was a good example of a relatively simple auditing exercise making a case for change.

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