Pain in the neck : Neck and upper limb disorders in women, the role of work related and other exposure factors

Abstract: Musculoskeletal disorders is of importance for society, both because of the suffering of the individualsand because of the high economic cost to society resulting from the impairment and from sick leave.Cervicobrachial syndrome was 1985 included in the WHO definition 'Work related musculoskeletaldiseases' (WMSDs). Women's diseases have tended to be regarded as subjectively perceivedsymptoms and not verified as clinical facts. The comprehensive purpose of this thesis was to studymusculoskeletal problems among women.Muscular endurance in elbow flexors was studied in a group of 4 women and 4 men. The risk ofcontracting musculoskeletal problems in shoulders and hands in relation to work related exposurefactors was studied, by means of questionnaires, in a group of 128 pipetting female biomedicaltechnicians. The risk of contracting musculoskeletal problems in the neck, the shoulders and thethoracic spine in relation to work related and non - work related exposure factors was studied in agroup of 173 randomly selected unskilled female workers (20 to 45 years old) in industry. The studycomprised a questionnaire and a clinical examination. Questionnaire answers of 'subjectively'perceived problems were compared with 'objective' clinical diagnoses. This group was followed upwith a new questionnaire study after a period of 3 years.The main findings in this thesis were that the mean endurance limit of force for 60 minutes of staticmuscular contraction was low- below 8% of Maximal Voluntary Contraction, and that women have aslightly higher endurance level than men; that both work related and non work related factorscorrelated with problems in the neck, shoulders, hands and thoracic spine among two differentoccupational groups of women. Biomedical technicians who worked with pipetting tasks more than300 hours per year (high exposed) had a five-fold increased risk of hand ailments and had a two-foldrisk of shoulder ailments compared to the low exposed group (less than 300 hours per year). Shoulderailments also covariated with psychosocial factors at work. Female unskilled workers reportedsignificantly higher prevalence of musculoskeletal ailments at all anatomical sites except the hips andfeet than a group of women from the general population. The subjectively reported disorders showed agood correlation with diagnoses. The combination of being gainfully employed with monotonouswork tasks, often with hands and arms lifted, and being responsible for home duties seems to cause arisk for cervicobrachial problems among female unskilled workers. From the results of the follow upstudy, it seems that the women as a whole were less healthy than at the time of the cross-sectionalstudy.

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