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01-12-2017 | Research | Uitgave 1/2017 Open Access

Journal of Foot and Ankle Research 1/2017

Exploring musculoskeletal injuries in the podiatry profession: an international cross sectional study

Journal of Foot and Ankle Research > Uitgave 1/2017
Cylie M. Williams, Stefania Penkala, Peter Smith, Terry Haines, Kelly-Ann Bowles
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​s13047-016-0185-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Workplace injury is an international costly burden. Health care workers are an essential component to managing musculoskeletal disorders, however in doing this, they may increase their own susceptibility. While there is substantial evidence about work-related musculoskeletal disorders across the health workforce, understanding risk factors in specific occupational groups, such as podiatry, is limited.
The primary aim of this study was to determine the prevalence and intensity of work related low back pain in podiatrists.


This was an international cross-sectional survey targeting podiatrists in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The survey had two components; general demographic variables and variables relating to general musculoskeletal pain in general or podiatry work-related musculoskeletal pain. Multivariable regression analyses were used to identify factors associated with musculoskeletal stiffness and pain and low back pain intensity. Thematic analysis was used to group comments podiatrists made about their musculoskeletal health.


There were 948 survey responses (5% of Australian, New Zealand and United Kingdom registered podiatrists). There were 719 (76%) podiatrists reporting musculoskeletal pain as a result of their work practices throughout their career. The majority of injuries reported were in the first five years of practice (n = 320, 45%). The body area reported as being the location of the most significant injury was the low back (203 of 705 responses, 29%). Being female (p < 0.001) and working in private practice (p = 0.003) was associated with musculoskeletal pain or stiffness in the past 12 months. There were no variables associated with pain or stiffness in the past four weeks. Being female was the only variable associated with higher pain (p = 0.018). There were four main themes to workplace musculoskeletal pain: 1. Organisational and procedural responses to injury, 2. Giving up work, taking time off, reducing hours, 3. Maintaining good musculoskeletal health and 4. Environmental change.


The postures that podiatrists hold while treating patients appear to impact on musculoskeletal pain and stiffness. Recently graduated and female podiatrists are at higher risk of injury. There is a need for the profession to consider how they move and take care of their own musculoskeletal health.

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