A study by the Instituto de Saúde Pública da Universidade do Porto (ISPUP) found that health professionals who are affected by occupational strain injuries – injuries resulting from, for example, the effort to mobilize dependent patients – are more likely to have a longer duration of temporary work incapacity.
Contrary to what was expected, research has shown that strain injuries outweigh direct trauma (resulting from falls or direct hits of the body against equipment, for example) in terms of the impact on the health of workers and the duration of the number of days absent from work.
The study, published in the journal “PLOS ONE”, aimed to better characterize the diagnosis of injury resulting from work accidents in health professionals and to understand its impact on absenteeism.
The researchers characterized 824 cases of musculoskeletal injuries due to work-related accidents, which occurred in the Hospital de São João (CHSJ), from January 2011 to December 2014.
They found that the most frequent diagnostic groups were direct traumas of the lower and upper limbs, and spinal strain injuries. “Of these three diagnostic groups, the one which was associated with a longer period of work absenteeism was that corresponding to spinal strain injuries“, says João Amaro, the first author of the study, coordinated by Pedro Norton.
“We found that there was a high incidence of strain injuries among health professionals. This type of injury results, for example, from the positioning of dependent patients in bed, as well as other tasks, such as hygiene care, and it particularly affects the lumbar spine, cervical spine and shoulders. This diagnostic group is responsible for a longer period of work absenteeism”, says the researcher.
The results show that “spinal strain injuries are associated with a five-fold increase in risk for temporary work incapacity for a period of more than 20 days, something we did not expect”, he says.
The study also found that strain injuries were particularly incident in younger (up to 35 years) workers. Unfortunately, these types of injuries are often neglected and undertreated in the acute phase.
According to João Amaro, the results of the study emphasize that “strain injuries should be seriously taken into account in the prevention of work-related accidents, given the negative impact they have on the health of workers and on absenteeism”.
The study is entitled Musculoskeletal injuries and absenteeism among healthcare professionals—ICD-10 characterization. The researchers João Magalhães (USF Espaço Saúde do ACeS Porto Ocidental), Margarida Leite (USF Brás Oleiros, do ACeS Porto Ocidental), Beatriz Aguiar (USF Brás Oleiros, do ACeS Porto Ocidental), Paula Ponte (USF Prelada, ACeS Porto Ocidental) and Joana Barrocas (USF Maresia, da ULS Matosinhos) also participated in the study.