Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT)


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Janet Jedlicka


Study; Upper Extremity Injury; Survey; Injury in Practicing Occupational Therapists


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to identify the frequencies of injuries, causes, and protective and preventative strategies for practicing occupational therapists when working with upper extremity injuries. There has been limited research pertaining specifically to work-related injuries among practicing occupational therapists in upper extremity rehabilitation has been done. For this study, researchers examined the prevalence of occupational injury, pain, risk factors, and prevention strategies among practicing upper extremity occupational therapists.

Methodology: An exploratory survey research design was implemented following approval from the University of North Dakota (UND) Institutional Review Board on August 14, 2019. Potential occupational therapists were contacted through the University of North Dakota Occupational Therapy Fieldwork Database maintained by the Occupational Therapy Department. The survey link was also posted on selected social media sites, and respondents were encouraged to forward the link to eligible upper extremity/hand therapy professionals. Survey questions pertained to demographics, workplace, symptoms and pain, and methods used to alleviate upper extremity issues. Following data collection, descriptive and inferential analyses of data were completed.

Results: Of the 40 respondents who comprised the final sample, 26 occupational therapists working with upper extremity injuries reported experiencing specific injuries or areas of pain/discomfort in their upper extremity when providing treatment. The most prominent area of pain/discomfort was found to be in the thumb. In addition, respondents who indicated working in a private outpatient setting had a significantly higher pain level on average while hospital outpatient settings had significantly lower pain level on average. The average pain level appeared to increase as age, years working, and hours worked per day increased; however, no significance was found among the three demographic categories due to a low number of respondents. Joint mobilization was reported to be the most common treatment method used by practicing upper extremity occupational therapists that aggravated their pain. Stretching was reported to be the most common preventative strategy used by 77.5% of respondents. The results also showed a strong correlation between how injury affects work and how work affects injury.

Conclusion: This study identified the prevalence of injuries and causes among practicing occupational therapists. Additionally, protective and preventative strategies used by practicing therapists that have been incorporated into practice to prevent injuries were reported. Results were consistent with the literature; however, continued research would be beneficial to identify specifically how preventative and protective strategies could be used and how work affects injury and how injury affects work.