Determinants of international variation in the prevalence of disabling wrist and hand pain

BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2019 Sep 18;20(1):436. doi: 10.1186/s12891-019-2791-x.


Background: Previous research has indicated that wide international variation in the prevalence of disabling low back pain among working populations is largely driven by factors predisposing to musculoskeletal pain more generally. This paper explores whether the same applies to disabling wrist/hand pain (WHP).

Methods: Using data from the Cultural and Psychosocial Influences on Disability (CUPID) study, we focused on workers from 45 occupational groups (office workers, nurses and other workers) in 18 countries. Among 11,740 participants who completed a baseline questionnaire about musculoskeletal pain and potential risk factors, 9082 (77%) answered a further questionnaire after a mean interval of 14 months, including 1373 (15%) who reported disabling WHP in the month before follow-up. Poisson regression was used to assess associations of this outcome with baseline risk factors, including the number of anatomical sites other than wrist/hand that had been painful in the 12 months before baseline (taken as an index of general propensity to pain).

Results: After allowance for other risk factors, the strongest associations were with general pain propensity (prevalence rate ratio for an index ≥6 vs. 0: 3.6, 95% confidence interval 2.9-4.4), and risk rose progressively as the index increased. The population attributable fraction for a pain propensity index > 0 was 49.4%. The prevalence of disabling WHP by occupational group ranged from 0.3 to 36.2%, and correlated strongly with mean pain propensity index (correlation coefficient 0.86).

Conclusion: Strategies to prevent disability from WHP among working populations should explore ways of reducing general propensity to pain, as well as improving the ergonomics of occupational tasks.

Keywords: Geographical variation; Pain propensity; Risk factors; Wrist/hand pain.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Disabled Persons / statistics & numerical data*
  • Ergonomics
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Global Burden of Disease / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / epidemiology*
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / physiopathology
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / prevention & control
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / physiopathology
  • Occupational Diseases / prevention & control
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / statistics & numerical data
  • Wrist Joint / physiopathology*
  • Young Adult