Objectives: The objective of this study was to examine the influence of physical exposure at work on neck and upper limb symptoms in office workers.
Methods: Data were used from a prospective cohort study with a follow-up period of 3 years. Independent variables were physical exposure at work, observed and self-reported. Outcome measures were neck-shoulder symptoms and elbow-wrist-hand symptoms. Data were analyzed with the generalized estimating equation (GEE) method, with adjustment for age, gender, psychosocial work characteristics and the outcome at baseline.
Results: Neck rotation was associated with neck-shoulder symptoms in the analyses with observed data (OR: 1.57; CI: 0.99-2.50) as well as those with self-reported data (OR: 1.43; CI: 1.02-2.01). Neck extension was also statistically significantly associated with neck-shoulder symptoms (OR: 2.42; CI: 1.22-4.80), but only self-reported data were available. Neck flexion, self-reported wrist pronation, self-reported arm elevation and self-reported duration of computer work, were not associated with symptoms. An indication was found of an adverse effect on neck-shoulder symptoms of long working days and on elbow-wrist-hand symptoms of self-reported wrist flexion and full-time work or longer compared to part-time work.
Conclusions: Only a limited number of work-related physical factors were related to neck and upper limb symptoms in office workers. Only neck rotation and self-reported neck extension were identified as risk factors for neck-shoulder symptoms.