Public Release: 

Researcher 'horrified' by physical stress put on X-ray technologists

University of Alberta

A research study out of the University of Alberta has found that the majority of X-ray technologists suffer from "significant and diverse musculoskelatal" problems due to the physical stress and strain of their job. The results of the study are published this month in the International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics.

Taking a random sample of 20 radiological X-ray technologists from the University hospitals in Edmonton and Calgary, Dr. Shrawan Kumar, a professor of physical therapy at the U of A, found that 83 per cent of the sample suffered from regular backaches, while 39 per cent of the female sample had regular neck pain. He believes the pain is due to excessive task demands--heavy lifting during manipulation of patients and equipment.

"I was horrified to see the kind of physical stress X-ray technologists go through," Kumar said. "They have the same physical stress level that heavy labourers have, but most heavy labour is intermittent work, and X-ray technologists work constantly."

Kumar said some of the work required by the technologists exceeds the permissible spinal load limits outlined by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety. As well, he said, the visco-elastic nature of human tissue means the body will breakdown over time unless the body is given appropriate resting time between exertions. The constant physical stress that the technologists undergo compounds the pain they experience. It is uncommon, he added, to find X-ray technologists beyond the age of 50.

Kumar's study was funded by the Workers' Compensation Board. He would like to follow up this "identification and quantification" research with more studies to develop ways and means to improve the situation for X-ray technologists, possibly through the development of new techniques or equipment.


Dr. Shrawan Kumar can be reached at 780-492-5979 or
Bob Saville, an X-ray technologist at the U of A Hospital, can be reached at 780-407-1270.
Kathy Hilsenteger, CEO and registrar of the Alberta Associaton of Medical Radiation Technologists, can be reached at 780-487-6130.

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