Purpose: This study examines the impact of work-related psychosocial and mechanical exposure on the development of neck/shoulder pain in the general working population.
Methods: A randomly drawn cohort from the general population in Norway aged 18-66 was followed up for 3 years (n = 12,550, response rate = 67 %). Eligible respondents were in paid work during the reference week in 2006 and 2009, or temporarily absent from such work (n = 6,745). Four work-related psychosocial factors and six mechanical exposures were measured. Outcomes of interest were moderate or severe neck/shoulder pain at follow-up adjusted for baseline neck/shoulder pain.
Results: In total, 16.9 % (1,138 individuals) reported neck/shoulder pain during the last month at follow-up. Work related psychosocial predictors of neck/shoulder pain were high job demands (highest OR 1.41, 95 % CI 1.11-1.78) and low levels of supportive leadership (highest OR 1.66, 95 % CI 1.08-2.54). Mechanical factors were neck flexion (highest OR 1.77, 95 % CI 1.31-2.39) and lifting in awkward postures (highest OR 1.81, 95 % CI 1.21-2.71). The estimated population risk attributable to these factors was about 23 %. The relative risk for neck/shoulder pain associated with psychosocial exposure was slightly influenced by adjustment for physical risk factors, and vice versa. There was no substantial confounding related to age, gender, education, occupation or psychological distress.
Conclusions: Highly demanding jobs, neck flexion and awkward lifting appear as the most important predictors of neck/shoulder pain.