Risk of musculoskeletal disorders among females and males in repetitive/constrained work

Ergonomics. 2009 Oct;52(10):1226-39. doi: 10.1080/00140130903056071.


This paper combines epidemiological data on musculoskeletal morbidity in 40 female and 15 male occupational groups (questionnaire data 3720 females, 1241 males, physical examination data 1762 females, 915 males) in order to calculate risk for neck and upper limb disorders in repetitive/constrained vs. varied/mobile work and further to compare prevalence among office, industrial and non-office/non-industrial settings, as well as among jobs within these. Further, the paper aims to compare the risk of musculoskeletal disorders from repetitive/constrained work between females and males. Prevalence ratios (PR) for repetitive/constrained vs. varied/mobile work were in neck/shoulders: 12-month complaints females 1.2, males 1.1, diagnoses at the physical examination 2.3 and 2.3. In elbows/hands PRs for complaints were 1.7 and 1.6, for diagnoses 3.0 and 3.4. Tension neck syndrome, cervicalgia, shoulder tendonitis, acromioclavicular syndrome, medial epicondylitis and carpal tunnel syndrome showed PRs > 2. In neck/shoulders PRs were similar across office, industrial and non-office/non-industrial settings, in elbows/hands, especially among males, somewhat higher in industrial work. There was a heterogeneity within the different settings (estimated by bootstrapping), indicating higher PRs for some groups. As in most studies, musculoskeletal disorders were more prevalent among females than among males. Interestingly, though, the PRs for repetitive/constrained work vs. varied/mobile were for most measures approximately the same for both genders. In conclusion, repetitive/constrained work showed elevated risks when compared to varied/mobile work in all settings. Females and males showed similar risk elevations. This article enables comparison of risk of musculoskeletal disorders among many different occupations in industrial, office and other settings, when using standardised case definitions. It confirms that repetitive/constrained work is harmful not only in industrial but also in office and non-office/non-industrial settings. The reported data can be used for comparison with future studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Tonus
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / diagnosis
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / etiology*
  • Neck / physiopathology
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Physical Examination
  • Shoulder / physiopathology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Upper Extremity / physiopathology
  • Young Adult