A population study on differences in the determinants of a specific shoulder disorder versus nonspecific shoulder pain without clinical findings

Am J Epidemiol. 2005 May 1;161(9):847-55. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwi112.


Musculoskeletal pain frequently occurs without particular clinical findings. Pain per se may be determined by factors other than those indicating a clinical disorder. The authors examined the prevalence and determinants of clinically diagnosed chronic rotator cuff tendinitis and self-reported nonspecific shoulder pain. The Health 2000 survey, carried out in 2000-2001 in Finland, included a nationally representative sample of 8,028 persons aged 30 years or more. In the present study, analyses were restricted to subjects aged 30-64 years who had held a job during the preceding 12 months. The prevalences of chronic rotator cuff tendinitis and nonspecific shoulder pain were 2.0% (78 of 3,909 subjects) and 12% (410 of 3,525 subjects), respectively. Nonspecific pain was related to burnout (adjusted odds ratio (OR) = 1.7, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.4, 2.2), depression (among women, the adjusted OR was 1.8 (95% CI: 1.1, 2.9) for mild depression and 3.0 (95% CI: 1.6, 5.6) for severe depression), and inability to express one's feelings (alexithymia) (adjusted OR = 1.6, 95% CI: 1.1, 2.5). However, these factors were not associated with chronic rotator cuff tendinitis, determinants of which were work-related cumulative loading on the shoulder, age, and insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (adjusted OR = 8.8, 95% CI: 1.9, 40.3). The determinants of specific musculoskeletal disorders differ from those of subjective complaints without clinical findings. Such complaints may be indicators of adverse psychological and psychosocial factors rather than the presence of an underlying pathologic condition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Prevalence
  • Shoulder Pain / classification
  • Shoulder Pain / epidemiology*
  • Shoulder Pain / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tendinopathy / diagnosis*
  • Tendinopathy / epidemiology