Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are a significant cause of morbidity in healthcare workers. The influence of shift work and long work hours on risk for MSDs is an area that needs further exploration. The purpose of this report is to assess research progress and gaps across studies that examined the relationship between demanding work schedules and MSD outcomes. A literature search identified 23 peer-reviewed publications in the English language that examined MSDs and long work hours, shift work, extended work shifts, mandatory overtime, or weekend work. Eight studies that examined long work hours and had some controls for physical job demands reported a significant increase in one or more measures of MSDs. Fourteen studies examining shift work had incomparable methods and types of shift work, and therefore, no clear trends in findings were identified. A small number of studies examined mandatory overtime, work on weekends and days off, and less than 10 h off between shifts. Given the complexity of the work schedule research topic, relatively few studies have adequately examined the relationship of work schedules and musculoskeletal outcomes. The review discusses research gaps including methodological issues and suggests research priorities.
2008 by National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health