Occupational musculoskeletal disorders in the neck and upper limbs of forestry workers exposed to hand-arm vibration

Ergonomics. 1991 May;34(5):547-62. doi: 10.1080/00140139108967336.


An epidemiologic and clinical study of neck and upper limb musculoskeletal disorders was carried out on 65 vibration-exposed forestry operators using chain-saws and 31 comparable control subjects (maintenance workers) performing manual activity and not exposed to vibration. Upper limb function was evaluated by measuring finger and wrist circumference size, maximal hand grip strength and range of motion manoeuvres in both the controls and the exposed workers. Vibration from two chain-saws was measured, and vibration exposure for each forestry worker was assessed in terms of 4 h energy-equivalent frequency-weighted acceleration according to ISO 5349. Job analysis indicated a slight excess risk of upper extremity cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs) in the forestry operators compared with the control workers. After adjustment for age and body constitution, significantly higher prevalence rates of persistent upper limb pain, muscle-tendon syndromes and carpal tunnel syndrome were observed among the forestry workers than among the controls. In the forestry operators, the occurrence of upper limb musculoskeletal disorders increased with increasing vibration exposure. Upper limb function was found to be impaired in the forestry workers compared with the controls. Vibration exposure was significantly related to increased finger circumference size, diminished muscle force and reduced joint function. Even though it is difficult to establish the relative importance of vibration and ergonomic factors in the aetiology of CTDs, nevertheless the results of this study indicate that musculoskeletal impairment to the upper limbs was more severe in the forestry operators than in the controls who did solely manual work. This finding and the observed dose-effect relationships suggest that vibration stress is an important contributor to the development of musculoskeletal disorders in workers using hand-held vibrating tools.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arm
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Muscular Diseases / etiology*
  • Neck
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / epidemiology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / etiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Vibration / adverse effects*
  • Wood*