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Original Article

The association between perceived stress and musculoskeletal pain during e-learning among health-profession students

Afrah K Almuwais, Raghad F Almalki, Joud A Aljuaid, Mariam A Hantoul, Noura A Alnajim, Madawi H Akotaibi, Samiah F Alqabbani.


Background and Aims:
Musculoskeletal pain is among students’ most common complaints while learning. University students report high-stress levels, which is a risk factor for developing musculoskeletal problems. Shift¬ing from face-to-face learning to e-learning during the COVID-19 pandemic may have increased college students’ time spent on computers. This increase may lead to musculoskeletal problems. This study aimed to assess the correlation between musculoskeletal pain, stress, and time spent on e-learn¬ing among female university students.

Participants were recruited through an online survey examining demographic data, students’ attitudes, the ‘Nordic Musculoskeletal Questionnaire’ and the ‘Perceived Stress Scale’. The survey was distributed, through university email lists and social media, to medical college students at Princess Noura bint Abdulrahman University in Saudi Arabia.

Respondents’ musculoskeletal symptoms during the seven days previous to their responses were present at the neck (55%), lower back (48%), shoulders (43%), and upper back (34%). A positive, significant, weak correlation between musculoskeletal symptoms and total time spent on e-learning (p = 0.27, p < 0.01) and stress (p = 0.3, p < 0.01). Students with high-stress scores and negative attitudes toward e-learning had more musculoskeletal pain intensity.

Respondents’ high prevalence of musculoskeletal symptoms appears to be affected by the high stress levels associated with health-profession students’ time spent on e-learning. Students’ negative attitude toward e-learning correlates with both musculoskeletal pain and stress levels.

Key words: Musculoskeletal pain, stress, university students, Nordic Musculoskeletal Questionnaire, Perceived Stress Scale.

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