Correlates of upper extremity disability in medical transcriptionists

Russell Gelfman, Timothy J. Beebe, Peter C. Amadio, Dirk R. Larson, Jeffrey R. Basford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objective To investigate the association between disability and personal/lifestyle, medical, and psychosocial risk factors for upper extremity musculoskeletal symptoms and disorders (UEMSDs) in medical transcriptionists. Methods A web-based survey involving the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH), Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) and Overall Job Satisfaction (OJS) questionnaires of all medical transcriptionists working at a large healthcare facility. Results Responses were received from 80% (251 of 314) possible participants. Mean DASH, PSS, and OJS scores for those working at their current position for at least 1 year were 8.5 ± 10.1, 14.3 ± 6.7 and 5.3 ± 0.9. Personal/lifestyle factors including age (P < 0.001), lower educational level (P = 0.014), current or previous smoking (P = 0.012), and limited exercise (P = 0.013); medical conditions including diabetes mellitus (P = 0.015), carpal tunnel syndrome (P < 0.001), prior treatment for upper extremity symptoms (P < 0.001); prior workstation evaluation (P < 0.001) and psychosocial factors of perceived stress (P < 0.001), are associated with increased DASH scores. In these workers, multivariate analysis suggests that medical conditions (finger or other upper extremity symptoms requiring treatment or workstation evaluation; and diabetes mellitus) have a larger effect on the DASH than personal/lifestyle or psychosocial factors (age; previous or current smoking; and perceived stress). Conclusions Prior upper extremity musculoskeletal symptoms requiring treatment or ergonomic assessment, high perceived stress and a history of smoking are associated with self-reported disability. Diabetics have significantly higher levels of upper extremity disability than non-diabetics. Prospective studies are needed to see if interventions addressing these factors will prevent future work disability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)340-348
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Occupational Rehabilitation
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Disclosure This publication was made possible by Grant Number 1 UL1 RR024150 from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official view of NCRR or NIH. Information on NCRR is available at Information on Reengineering the Clinical Research Enterprise can be obtained from


  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Disability
  • Job satisfaction
  • Psychological stress
  • Upper extremity


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