Biomechanical exposures and musculoskeletal disorders among Saskatchewan farmers
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Background: The prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders among farmers is greater than non-farming populations. The burden on Canadian farmers is unknown, however. Research is required to determine the occurrence of these conditions and the work-related tasks that contribute to musculoskeletal pain in prevalent anatomical sites. Objectives: The objectives of the two studies comprising this thesis were to 1) describe the sample population of Saskatchewan farmers and the prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders, and, 2) explore the strength of associations between biomechanical exposures and work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Methods: Objective 1. Participants received a mail-out survey for the Saskatchewan Farm Injury Cohort. Study outcomes were self-reports of musculoskeletal disorders characterized by presence and severity of musculoskeletal pain in nine anatomical regions. Objective 2. A cross-sectional analysis of the experience of musculoskeletal pain in relation to four main biomechanical work exposures was performed. Relationships were determined by modeling the exposures separately using modified Poisson regression. Results: Objective 1. A strong majority of participants (82.2%) reported having musculoskeletal pain in at least one body part over the past year. The lower back was the anatomical site most frequently affected (57.7%), followed by the shoulders (44.0%). Objective 2. Results suggest that all biomechanical exposures had a dose-response effect on musculoskeletal outcomes. Shovel or pitchfork use was strongest for lower back pain, while working with arms above head was the greatest risk factor for shoulder pain. Conclusions: Objective 1. Our study suggests that Canadian farmers also experience musculoskeletal pain most frequently in the lower back and shoulders, similar to those in other regions and commodity types. It also found that all farm people are at risk for musculoskeletal disorders, highlighting the need to target all subgroups and commodity types equally. Objective 2. Strong associations between increased biomechanical exposures and pain in the lower back and shoulders support the evidence that these regions are susceptible to the physical exposures of farm work.