Objectives: The co-occurrence of musculoskeletal pain symptoms in seven body sites and their combinations among women in kitchen work were studied.
Methods: Data on musculoskeletal pain during the past 3 months in the neck, shoulders, forearms/hands, low back, hips, knees and ankles/feet were gathered by questionnaire from 495 female workers (mean age 45 years) in connection with an ergonomic intervention study in municipal kitchens of four cities in Finland. Altogether 122 kitchens (60% of those eligible) participated in the study. The response rate in the participating kitchens was 98%.
Results: The 3-month prevalence of any musculoskeletal pain was 87%, the most common sites being the neck (71%), low back (50%) and forearms/hands (49%). About 73% of the subjects had pain in at least two, 36% in four or more, and 10% in 6-7 sites. In pair wise comparisons, e.g. neck pain was associated with pain in other sites with prevalence ratios (PR) varying from 1.3 to 1.6, and ankle or foot pain with ratios between 1.9 and 2.4. The seven pain symptoms occurred in more than 80 different combinations. When the co-occurrence of pain was studied in three larger anatomical areas, i.e. any pain in the axial (neck and low back), upper limb and lower limb areas, subjects reporting concurrent pain in all three were the largest category (36% of the respondents). Altogether 53% of the workers reported pain in at least the axial and upper limb areas, and 48% in at least the axial and lower limb areas.
Conclusions: Widespread co-occurrence of musculoskeletal pain symptoms was common among female kitchen workers with slight predominance in the upper body.