Some jobs just seem like hard work, and it’s not hard to imagine the physical stresses of being a miner, farmer, manual labourer, or firefighter.

But plenty of other careers can take a sneaky physical toll that outsiders might not expect.

“That has been the traditional thinking, that if you were a bricklayer or a roofer you’re going to have back pain or a work injury, and – while there is still a risk for that – today we see a lot in our practice people in pain from other kinds of work where they’re not doing a lot of heavy lifting,” said Wendy O’Connor, ergonomic consultant and partner with Injury Prevention Plus.

By now, we’re probably all aware of the risks desk jockeys face sitting (or standing) all day at a computer. But read on to discover some careers that have proven to be tougher on the body than you might have imagined.

Professional musicians

Sorry to strike a down note, but in pursuit of mastering their crafts, many musicians put their bodies through a beating.

A 2012 report surveying professional musicians in Australia found that 84 per cent had experienced pain or injuries that interfered with playing their instruments, while 50 per cent were currently in pain while playing. Common ailments include carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, and bursitis.

A big problem is overuse over a long period of time, but musicians also have a tendency to prioritize performance over posture and take infrequent breaks. They’re also in a stressful, competitive work environment where no one wants to lose their spot.

Of course, for travelling musicians living on the road and playing pubs and clubs late into the night, the prognosis isn’t much better. And no matter what genre of music you’re playing, hearing loss is a common concern.

Healthcare workers

The next time you find yourself receiving medical treatment, perhaps you should ask your care worker how he or she is feeling.

In British Columbia, long-term health care workers topped the list of jobs with the highest risk of being injured at work, according to WorkSafeBC. Their injury rate was a resounding four times higher than the provincial average – 9.3 per 100 workers compared to 2.3. Health-care assistants made the most injury claims in B.C. over a five-year period, while registered nurses and psychiatric nurses were also in the top 5.

“In healthcare, you might be transporting patients, helping them in and out of chairs, catching them if they fall. That can cause problems for people,” said Don Patten, an Ergonomics Specialist for Workplace Safety and Prevention Services, which is holding the Partners in Prevention expo in Mississauga, Ont., from May 1-2.

Frequently, these jobs also involve shift work that can further exacerbate any health concerns.

Even jobs within the healthcare field that you might have thought were comparatively less demanding carry risks. For instance: sonographers.

“I’ve met a few who were having problems because it’s difficult to get close to your patient as you perform the ultrasound – they’re often reaching for prolonged periods,” O’Connor said. “People think it’s easy, that you just move the wand around, but they definitely have some issues.”

Dental workers

No one cherishes a trip to the dentist, but you’re probably not the only one suffering when you’re in that chair. Dental professionals must manoeuvre in all sorts of awkward ways to tend to your teeth, leading to issues in the neck, lower back, shoulder, and hands.

A 2006 Australian study found that 87.2 per cent of dentists reported at least one musculoskeletal disorder, and 37.5 per cent of dentists reported seeking medical help for an injury suffered on the job.

Massage therapists

It turns out, working out the kinks in your back is a real pain in the neck.

In the pioneering book Healing Massage Techniques, Frances M. Tappan claimed 80 per cent of people who start out in massage therapy drop out after two years. Massage therapists face work-related physical challenges to their hands, shoulders, wrists, necks, arms, elbows, and backs. They’re also frequently on their feet all day.

“The burnout rate for massage therapy is fairly high,” Patten said.

He suggests ailing massage therapists make sure to adjust their tables to the proper height, explore techniques that limit wrist strain, and try to maintain solid posture.


You thought styling hair is an easy gig? Cut it out.

Two Dutch studies found that 40 per cent of hairdressers surveyed reported suffering serious or regular musculoskeletal complaints. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety lists health hazards including the long hours of standing required, repetitive strain injury, and the risk of injury or burns from the various sharp, hot, or chemical objects typically found in a salon.

So the next time you go for a bang trim, be sure to tip generously.