Occupational hand injuries: a current review of the prevalence and proposed prevention strategies for physical therapists and similar healthcare professionals

Abstract

Hand injury is the second most common work-related musculoskeletal injury among physical therapists (PTs) and other manual therapy professionals such as osteopaths, physiotherapists, chiropractors, acupuncturists and massage therapists. However, the nature and extent of this problem have not been fully explored yet. Therefore, the objective of this study was to review the existing literature published on the prevalence, risk factors, consequences, and prevention of hand injuries among PTs and similar healthcare professionals. The lifetime prevalence of hand injuries was about 15%–46%, and the annual prevalence was reported as 5%–30%. Thumb injuries were found to be the most prevalent of all injuries, accounting more than 50% of all hand-related problems. The most significant risk factors for job-related hand injuries were performing manual therapy techniques, repetitive workloads, treating many patients per day, continued work while injured or hurt, weakness of the thumb muscles, thumb hypermobility, and instability at the thumb joints. PTs reported modifying treatment technique, taking time off on sick leave, seeking intervention, shifting the specialty area, and decreasing patient contact hours as the major consequences of these injuries. The authors recommend that PTs should develop specific preventive strategies and put more emphasis on the use of aids and equipment to reduce the risk of an unnecessary injury.