In 11 patients, all women, 21-55 years of age, with unilateral work-related myalgia of the trapezius muscle, the right and left trapezius muscles were examined simultaneously for electromyogram (EMG) signs of localized muscle fatigue. All patients were tested with 0-kg hand load for 5 min, holding the arms straight at 90 degrees of elevation in the scapular plane. Only 4 of the patients tolerated exposure to higher load levels. They were tested with 1 kg hand load for 3 min and 2 kg hand load for 2 min, with a period of rest of 30 min between the trials. The EMG mean power frequency (MPF) and root mean square (rms) were calculated. Data were normalized with the initial value as a reference and regression analyses were performed. On both sides a decrease of MPF and an increase of rms were found with increasing time and load, i.e. classical EMG signs of localized muscle fatigue. Compared with the nonaffected side smaller changes were found on the affected side, possibly due to pain inhibition, impaired microcirculation and biochemical changes along the muscle fibres. At 0-kg hand load we found no change of MPF on either side despite subjective feelings of fatigue and pain. We interpreted these findings as an indication of reduced capacity of the affected trapezius muscle to sustain static load with early development of pain-associated local fatigue.