Gender differences in prevalence of upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders

Ergonomics. 2004 Apr 15;47(5):495-526. doi: 10.1080/00140130310001638171.


A literature review was conducted on the current literature base to determine the strength of support for the hypothesis that women experience higher prevalences of upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders (UEMSDs) than men. Fifty-six articles were reviewed for data on gender differences in frequency, incidence or prevalence rates for musculoskeletal disorders specific to the upper extremities. These articles included both general and working populations. The majority of the studies showed that women had significantly higher incidences of various types of UEMSDs than men. This trend was consistently observed in studies based on self-report or plant/workers compensation records, with and without physical examination, and after adjusting for potential confounders such as age and physical work factors. With men as the referent, the odds ratio (OR) or prevalence ratio (PR) for UEMSDs ranged from 0.85 to 10.05 for self report. For self report combined with physical examination, the OR/PR ranged from 0.66 to 11.4. The OR/PR for carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) ranged from 0.6 to 2.87 with confounder adjustment. These findings suggest that women do have significantly higher prevalences than men for many types of UEMSDs, even after controlling for the type of data source and confounders such as age or work factors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arm / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / physiopathology
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / physiopathology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sex Factors
  • Upper Extremity / physiopathology*