BACKGROUND: The physical demands and high rates of musculoskeletal injury among practicing orthopaedic surgeons have been previously recognized in the literature. However, there is a paucity of data regarding musculoskeletal symptoms among resident orthopaedic surgeons. We sought to answer the following questions: (1) are there significant levels of musculoskeletal symptoms among resident orthopaedic surgeons?; (2) do residents attribute these symptoms to their work as surgeons?; and (3) is our survey instrument reliable enough for use in future investigations? METHODS: We developed an online, cross-sectional survey based on the previously validated Nordic Musculoskeletal Questionnaire and distributed it to 39 resident orthopaedic surgeons at our institution in 2011, with 82% responding. Fifteen participants repeated the survey to assess agreement and reliability between repeated administrations of the survey. RESULTS: Significant levels of musculoskeletal symptoms were found in the resident surgeons, with the most common self-reported symptoms reported in the neck (59%), lower back (55%), upper back (35%), and shoulders (34%). Large proportions of these symptoms were self-reportedly attributed to the residents' work as a surgeon. Intrarater reliability revealed moderate to almost perfect agreement in nearly all repeated survey items. CONCLUSIONS: Given that there are similar rates of musculoskeletal symptoms among our resident orthopedists and practicing orthopedists, more attention needs to be paid to the ergonomic and physical environments in which we are training the next generation of surgeons, especially when considering the extensive societal investment in training for these specialists.