The prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders in the retail sector: an Italian cross sectional study on 3380 workers

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Giulia Stucchi
Natale Battevi
Silvia Cairoli
Dario Consonni


Grande distribuzione, Disturbi muscoloscheletrici, Malattie professionali, Sovraccarico biomeccanico, Indagine trasversale / Retail sector, Musculoskeletal disorder, Occupational diseases, Biomechanical overload, Cross-Sectional Study


Background: Cashiers are not the only workers in the Retail Sector (RS) who are exposed to biomechanical overload risk of the upper limbs and spine. Objectives: To investigate the prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders among employees in the RS. Methods: 3380 Italian workers were asked to complete a standardized medical history questionnaire to collect data on symptoms and diagnosed disorders affecting upper limbs, spine and knees. These were then compared with data on subjects not exposed to biomechanical overload risk. Results: 21.1% of the workers reported at least one disorder affecting the upper limbs (OR 5.05), i.e., shoulder (OR 3.39), elbow (OR 4.25), wrist/hand (OR 8.39) and CTS (OR 8.70). The prevalence of disc hernia was 16% (OR 3.82). A high prevalence of knee complaints was also found among subjects employed in the RS (OR 1.73). Conclusions: The high prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders seems to confirm the presence of a risk of biomechanical overload for most job positions in the retail sector, although a possible selection bias cannot be completely ignored. Recommendations for future studies aiming to confirm our results include: involving all workers in every store and collecting information about diagnostic procedures.
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