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Why Do Some Radiologists Have Back Pain?

The health risks of spending long hours at a desk are well known to most office workers, but up until recently, we were unaware of the negative side effects for medical workers who spend most of the day stationary. According to a new study from Emory University, radiologists who spend more than seven hours a day at their PACS station experience more musculoskeletal pain than their colleagues who spend less time sitting. They also found that females suffered from more back and arm pain than their male counterparts.

The study leaders, Rebecca Seidel, MD, and Elizabeth A. Krupinski, PhD, distributed the Cornell Musculoskeletal Discomfort Questionnaire to all radiology trainees and faculty at Emory University’s department of radiology through an anonymous link. The researchers received responses from around 39 percent of staff members. Out of the 99 radiologists who responded, 80 percent said they spent more than seven hours at a workstation and their muscle pain corresponded to the amount of time spent stationary. The average age of the respondents was 37, and they reported that the most common pain points were the neck (66 percent), lower back (61 percent), upper back (43 percent), right shoulder (36 percent), and right wrist (33 percent).

According to the study, female bodies might be less compatible with work chair ergonomics than male bodies, as female radiologists reportedly had more pain in both shoulders, left forearm, neck, lower back, and hip. In fact, 75 percent of female radiologists claimed that pain in the right thigh impacted their ability to work, whereas only 11 percent of male radiologists said that the pain hindered their productivity.

The authors explain that this discrepancy “may be due to furniture design that favors a male body habitus or differences in position and posture between genders. More investigation is needed to better understand how to optimize workstation ergonomics for the female radiologist.”

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