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Risk Factors for Upper Extremity Musculoskeletal Symptoms among Bovine Veterinarians



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Background Bovine veterinarians experience an increased risk of reporting upper-limb musculoskeletal (MSK) symptoms when compared to the general population. One hypothesized cause is reproductive exams performed on cattle via rectal palpation, but this has not been conclusively verified via epidemiological study design or ergonomic assessment. Objectives This thesis answers the following research questions: 1) What self-reported individual and work-related risk factors are associated with work-preventing upper-extremity MSK symptoms in Western Canadian bovine practitioners? 2) Which physical ergonomic hazards (posture, repetition, force, and workplace design) are associated with bovine reproductive exams? Methods Multiple logistic regression analysis was performed on data from a cross-sectional survey of western Canadian bovine veterinarians to determine individual and workplace characteristics associated with work-preventing MSK symptoms in the past 12 months. Field ergonomic assessments were performed on seven bovine veterinarians at routine reproductive exam appointments on beef and dairy cattle. Posture, repetition, force, and workplace characteristics were assessed as potential ergonomic hazards. Results The final regression model retained three variables that predicted work-preventing upper-extremity MSK symptoms: height (continuous, OR 0.93 [0.87-0.99]), number of veterinarians in the practice (continuous, OR 1.32 [1.05-1.66]), and practice type (mixed animal vs. primarily bovine, OR 3.20 [0.96-10.64]). While annually estimated number of reproductive exams was not significant in the regression model, the field ergonomic assessment confirmed that during reproductive exam appointments veterinarians are exposed to awkward postures, repetitive movements, and forceful exertions both from the exams themselves and ancillary work-related tasks. Conclusion Bovine veterinarians are exposed to a variety of physical hazards that have been associated with upper limb MSK symptoms in other professions. Personal risk factors, such as height, number of co-workers, and practice type, may exacerbate the risk of developing these symptoms. It is imperative that prevention strategies be prioritized to ensure that bovine tasks become safer to ensure a healthy future for the bovine veterinary profession.



musculoskeletal disorders, ergonomics, veterinarian



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Community Health and Epidemiology


Community and Population Health Science



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