Burden of musculoskeletal disorders among registered nurses: Evidence from the Thai nurse cohort study

Wilaiphorn Thinkhamrop, Krisada Sawaengdee, Viroj Tangcharoensathien, Tuangtip Theerawit, Wongsa Laohasiriwong, Jiamjit Saengsuwan, Cameron Paul Hurst

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Background: Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are a major public health problem among registered nurses (RNs) in Thailand. Information on their burdens at a national level is limited. This study estimated the prevalence of MSDs among RNs using the 2009 Thai Nurse Cohort, a nationally representative sample of RNs in Thailand. 

Methods: This study is part of the first wave survey of the Thai Nurse Cohort Study (TNCS) conducted in 2009. Members of the cohort consisted of 18,756 RNs across Thailand. A 13-page self-administered questionnaire was sent to participants where MSDs were measured by self-reported answers to questions related to experiencing MSDs during a previous year. However, 1070 RNs were excluded from this study since they were unemployed during a previous year, therefore the final sample size was 17,686 RNs. A 12-month prevalence of MSDs and its 95% confidence interval (95% CI) were estimated based on normal approximation to binomial distribution. Chi-square test for trend was used. 

Results: Of the 17,686 RNs, 47.8% (95% CI: 47.0-48.5) reported having MSDs during the previous 12 months. The prevalence of MSDs significantly increased with age, body mass index, and working duration (all P < 0.001). Compared to the non-MSD group, RNs with MSDs had a higher proportion who perceived MSDs as a long-term, chronic medical condition (78.1% vs 20.7%; p < 0.001), being currently on medication (49.4% vs 14.7%; p < 0.001), using pain relief medication almost every day (9.0% vs 1.9%; p < 0.001), experiencing sickness absence (15.7% vs 1.1%; p < 0.001), seeking medical specialist consultations (odds ratio, OR 2.2; 95% CI: 2.0-2.3; p < 0.001), and seeking alternative medications (OR 2.5; 95% CI: 2.3-2.7; p < 0.001). 

Conclusions: Musculoskeletal disorders affected almost half of the RNs in Thailand annually. They placed a major healthcare burden and were a major cause of working days lost due to sick leaves, diminished productivity and quality of patient care. More attention should be paid to the prevention and effective management of MSDs in RNs in Thailand. Further study on ergonomics related to MSDs and its prevention are needed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number68
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalBMC Nursing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes


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