Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography

Impact of WRMSDs

The impact of WRMSDs range from minor discomfort to career-ending injuries. In the study by Pike et al, 20% of sonographers who were symptomatic suffered career-ending injuries.4 The onset of WRMSD symptoms occurs as early as six months from the start of employment (15% incidence), increasing to 45% after three years, and as high as 72% after ten years of employment.11 There are also a number of emotional and financial implications for the worker, as well as an impact on co-workers and the employer.

Pain is the most common symptom and may be accompanied by joint stiffness, redness or swelling, and/or muscle tightness. Numbness and tingling may also occur. The progression of symptoms is defined according to stages in Figure 5. The most common injuries among sonographers are carpal and cubital tunnel syndrome, epicondylitis of the elbow, shoulder capsulitis and tendonitis, and neck and back strains. In a 2009 sample by Evans et al, 90% of sonographers reported shoulder pain, with 69% reporting low back pain and  more than half (54%) reporting work related symptoms of the hand and wrist.6

It is difficult to successfully treat WRMSDs if reporting is delayed or the worker is sent back to the same work environment that produced the initial injury. Therefore, early reporting of symptoms and efforts to prevent injuries is critically important. The first onset of pain is a signal that the muscles and tendons need to rest and recover. Otherwise, an injury can become longstanding, and sometimes, irreversible.

Excerpt from the Work Related Musculoskeletal Disorders in Sonography white paper.

4. Pike I, Russo A, Berkowitz J, Baker J, Lessoway V. The Prevalence of Musculoskeletal Disorders Among Diagnostic Medical Sonographers. Journal of Diagnostic Medical Sonography 1997;13(5):219-227.

6. Evans K, Roll S, Baker J. Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WRMSD) Among Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Vascular Technologists: A Representative Sample. Journal of Diagnostic Medical Sonography 2009;25(6):287-299.

9. Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety 2016. Available at: Accessed July 17, 2016.

11. Muir M, Hrynkow P, Chase R, Boyce D, Mclean D. The Nature, Cause, and Extent  of Occupational Musculoskeletal Injuries among Sonographers: Recommendations for Treatment and Prevention. Journal of Diagnostic Medical Sonography 2004;20(5):317-325.