Musculoskeletal disorders among spine surgeons: Results of a survey of the scoliosis research society membership

Joshua D. Auerbach, Zachary D. Weidner, Andrew H. Milby, Mohammad Diab, Baron S. Lonner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Study Design: Survey of surgeon members of the Scoliosis Research Society. Objective: To assess the prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) among spine surgeons. Summary of Background Data: Spinal deformity surgery is characterized by long duration and repetitive, forceful tasks. The purpose of this study is to describe the type and prevalence of MSDs among orthopedic spine surgeons. Methods: A modified version of the physical discomfort survey was sent to surgeon members of the Scoliosis Research Society via standard mail and e-mail. A total of 3 attempts to contact potential respondents were made, with 62% (561/904 × 100) responding. Mean respondent age was 54 years. Mean annual total caseload was 147, of which 62 were of spinal deformity. A total of 84% of the respondents had an active surgical practice. Results: The most common self-reported diagnoses included neck pain/strain/spasm (38%, 215/561), lumbar disc herniation/radiculopathy (31%, 172/561), cervical disc herniation/ radiculopathy (28%, 155/561), rotator cuff disease (24%, 134/561), varicose veins or peripheral edema (20%, 112/561), and lateral epicondylitis (18%, 99/561). For lumbar disc disease, 7.1% (40/561 × 100) and for cervical disc disease, 4.6% (26/561 × 100) of spine surgeons underwent surgery. Among active spine surgeons, multiple linear regression analysis revealed that total caseload correlated with neck pain (P = 0.01) and lower extremity edema (P = 0.03), while the number of deformity cases correlated with wrist pain (P = 0.003) and hand pain (P = 0.03). Age was correlated with shoulder (P = 0.03), elbow (P = 0.04), and hand pain (P = 0.02). Number of years in practice did not correlate with MSDs. Conclusion: Compared with disease estimates in the general population, spine surgeons have a higher prevalence of MSDs. Our cohort underwent surgical intervention for lumbar (7.1%) and cervical (4.6%) disc disease at rates far exceeding disease estimates in the general population. Increased awareness among spine surgeons may lead to earlier treatment and, ultimately, enhanced preventive measures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E1715-E1721
Issue number26
StatePublished - 15 Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • deformity
  • musculoskeletal injury
  • occupational hazard
  • pain
  • spine surgeon


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