Objectives: A prospective follow-up study of employees in Denmark was analyzed in order to investigate the association between physical and psychosocial exposures and musculoskeletal symptoms in the neck-shoulder and wrist-hand regions.
Methods: Data were derived from a 5-year follow-up questionnaire study of a sample of employees in Denmark, aged between 18 and 59 years. Occupational and individual background factors were assessed in 1990, and the associations with symptoms in 1995 were analyzed using logistic regression. The analysis was restricted to comprise employees free of symptoms in 1990. The neck-shoulder and wrist-hand analyses included 1,895 and 3,179 employees, respectively.
Results: Among men, neck-shoulder symptoms were predicted by twisting or bending (odds ratio (OR) 1.5, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.01-2.26) and social support at work (OR 1.8, CI 1.24-2.50 for low versus rather high social support, OR 1.4, CI 1.00-2.09 for high versus rather high social support). Furthermore, an interacting effect of heavy lifting and sedentary work was indicated. Symptoms in the wrist-hand region were predicted by stress symptoms (OR 1.7, CI 1.12-2.71) and twisting or bending (OR 1.7, CI 1.18-2.57). For women, smoking habits predicted neck-shoulder symptoms (OR 1.8, CI 1.14-2.82, former versus never smokers). Symptoms in the wrist-hand region were predicted by stress symptoms (OR 1.7, CI 1.16-2.41) and twisting or bending (OR 1.9, CI 1.34-2.80).
Conclusion: The results confirm that physical exposures at work influence the development of musculoskeletal symptoms in the neck-shoulder and wrist-hand regions. However, the results also suggest that a psychosocial exposure (social support) and perceived stress symptoms influence musculoskeletal symptoms.