• Written By: Alma I. Murphy, MD
    Comprehensive Ophthalmology

    Investigators used an electronic survey to evaluate the prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders among eye care physicians (ophthalmologists and optometrists) at the University of Iowa and Mayo Clinic compared with family medicine physicians at the same institutions. They found that eye care physicians had a higher prevalence of neck, hand/wrist and lower-back pain compared with family medicine physicians, with repetitive tasks, prolonged or awkward/cramped positions, and bending/twisting as contributory factors.

    This study suggests manufacturers need to enhance the ergonomic design of instruments, such as the slit lamp biomicroscope, to improve the work environment of ophthalmologists and optometrists.

    One hundred eight-six surveys were completed by 94 eye care physicians and 92 family medicine physicians, with a response rate of 99 percent and 80 percent, respectively. There were no significant differences between the two groups with regard to mean age, gender, body mass index, years with current employer or years in practice.

    A greater proportion of eye care physicians classified their job as high-strain (high demand, low control; 31 percent vs. 20 percent) and a lower proportion classified their job as an active job (high demand, high control; 24 percent vs. 47 percent; P = 0.01).

    To the best of the authors’ knowledge this is the first cross-sectional study comparing the prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders among eye care physicians to a reference group. They conclude that given the obvious personal and socioeconomic ramifications of these findings, future efforts should concentrate on modifying eye care providers' work environments to prevent or alleviate musculoskeletal disorders and their personal and socioeconomic burden.