Further studies of shoulder and neck pain and exposures in customer service work with low biomechanical demands

Ergonomics. 2002 Oct 20;45(13):887-909. doi: 10.1080/0014013021000034867.


The aim of the study was to establish insight into work exposures that cause shoulder and neck pain among occupational groups that have low biomechanical exposure and experience work stress from client/customer contact, among other exposures. Four occupational groups were studied, in health care (n = 20), retail (n = 22), banking (n = 26), and university secretaries (n = 26), a total of 94 volunteers. Thirty-nine were classified as pain-afflicted in the shoulder and neck, while 55 were pain-free. The subjects' perceptions of biomechanical and psychosocial exposures were established by use of quantitative questionnaires and by explorative interviews with open-ended questions, covering the same themes. Heart rate and trapezius EMG were recorded over a full workday and the following leisure period. Trapezius median and static activity during work were 3.3% and 0.3% EMG(max), only marginally higher than trapezius activity in the leisure period (2.7% and 0.2% EMG(max)). The quantitative questionnaire did not identify any variable that correlated with shoulder and neck pain except perceived general tension. The interviews established that the interaction with clients or customers was an important source of work stress. Such stress appeared to be a complex entity not easily characterized by established psychosocial questionnaires. The physiological variables were at most weakly elevated in periods with high stress as compared to periods with low stress. The authors caution against relying on standardized quantitative questionnaires and/or physiological recordings to characterize work stress in occupations with emotional stress through client/customer service work.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena*
  • Electromyography
  • Employment / psychology
  • Ergonomics*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology
  • Neck Pain / physiopathology*
  • Norway
  • Occupational Health*
  • Psychology
  • Shoulder Pain / physiopathology*
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Surveys and Questionnaires