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Abstract

Background and Purpose. Knowledge, skills, relationships, and attitudes of caring and working hard are all thought to be valued by physical therapists. This article explores how physical therapists see themselves, in light of some of these values, when they experience work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs). The article also explores the ways in which these values may compete with each other, and it suggests how this may contribute to the onset of WMSDs and to therapists' behavior following a WMSD. Subjects and Methods. Eighteen therapists who had made a career change after a WMSD participated in interviews that were designed to gain insight into the attitudes and beliefs of therapists who had had a WMSD. Results. Participants did not anticipate WMSDs, and they typically believed their physical therapy knowledge and skills would have prevented WMSDs from occurring. They saw themselves as knowledgeable and caring and indicated that these characteristics were highly valued by the profession. Their need to demonstrate these attributes sometimes resulted in behaviors that contributed to the development of their WMSDs and made them worse after their onset. Discussion and Conclusion. The cultural values of physical therapists may make it difficult for them to do their jobs in a way that minimizes the risk of WMSDs. The study identified a potential conflict between the therapists' need to (1) demonstrate their ability to work hard and care for their patients and (2) appear knowledgeable and skilled by remaining injury free.

  • Received December 1, 2000.
  • Accepted November 12, 2001.
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