Factors related to thumb pain in physiotherapists

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The aim of this study was to determine whether differences exist between physiotherapists with work-related thumb pain and physiotherapists without thumb pain. Twenty-four physiotherapists with work-related thumb pain (Pain Group) and 20 physiotherapists without thumb or wrist pain (Non-pain Group), who were working at least 20 hours per week in an outpatient musculoskeletal setting, were compared on a number of attributes: generalised joint laxity, hand and thumb strength, height, weight, working environment, hand position and force applied during mobilisation, mobility at individual thumb joints, extent of osteoarthritis at the thumb and radial-sided wrist joints, and demographic data including age, gender and years of experience. All physiotherapists in the Pain Group reported their thumb pain was related to and initially caused by the performance of manual techniques, and 88% had altered their manual techniques because of pain in the thumb. There was extreme variability in hand position and force applied during mobilisation, and a slightly high prevalence of osteoarthritis (22.7%) considering the mean age of the total sample (38.6 years). Statistically significant differences between groups included increased right carpometacarpal joint laxity (6.4%, 95% Cl 0.19 to 12.6), decreased right tip pinch strength (0.84 kg, 95% Cl 0.01 to 1.68), and lower body mass index (2.0, 95% Cl 0.11 to 3.9) for the Pain Group. Other factors were not statistically different between groups. These results indicate that work-related thumb pain affects physiotherapists' ability to administer manual treatments, and suggest that decreased stability and strength of the thumb may be associated with work-related thumb pain.




Snodgrass, S. J., Rivett, D. A., Chiarelli, P., Bates, A. M., & Rowe, L. J. (2003). Factors related to thumb pain in physiotherapists. Australian Journal of Physiotherapy, 49(4), 243–250. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0004-9514(14)60140-9

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