Get access

Musculoskeletal pain among healthcare workers: An exploratory study on gender differences


  • Disclosure Statement: The authors report no conflicts of interests.

Correspondence to: Rose Elizabeth Cabral Barbosa, Avenue Professor Alfredo Balena, 190/733, Santa Efigênia, CEP 30130-100, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil.




Musculoskeletal disorder rates among healthcare workers are high compared to other occupational groups. Studies indicate a higher prevalence of musculoskeletal pain in women as compared to men in most productive sectors. The objectives of our study were to assess the prevalence of upper-limb musculoskeletal pain in male and female employees of the Belo Horizonte municipal Health Department, and to identify associated factors, considering individual and occupational characteristics, by gender.


This cross-sectional study of a proportional sample of 1,721 subjects from a universe of 13,602 workers in the municipal health system evaluated the prevalence of self-reported upper-limb musculoskeletal pain. The magnitude of the associations was estimated by Poisson regression.


The prevalence of upper-limb musculoskeletal pain was 24.1% among women and 11.0% among men. Women who had high domestic workloads, and performed tasks under high strain showed high prevalence of musculoskeletal pain. For women and men, a high prevalence of upper-limb pain was reported by those who performed highly physically demanding tasks, and those exposed to poor environmental conditions.


The findings suggest gender differences in the distribution of upper-limb musculoskeletal pain across occupational groups. It also support initiatives that focus on the need to give visibility to the different effects of working conditions on the health of occupational groups and suggest the importance of developing specific measures to promote women's health. The higher prevalence of pain observed among women with high domestic workloads suggests the importance of these activities when evaluating workload in occupational studies. Am. J. Ind. Med. 56:1201–1212, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.