To make a preliminary assessment of whether upper limb soft tissue disorders might be associated with activities at work, we have conducted a case-control study of subjects attending orthopedic clinics in three cities. All subjects between the ages of 16 and 65 years, in whom defined soft tissue conditions of the upper limb were diagnosed by the participating orthopedic surgeons, were invited to take part. Controls were subjects attending the same clinics within the same age range whose clinical diagnosis did not include disease of the upper limb, cervical or thoracic spine. Information concerning repetitive movements of the upper limbs at work was elicited by questionnaire. Five hundred eighty cases and 996 controls were studied, representing 96% and 93%, respectively, of those invited to participate. The diagnoses of the cases included soft tissue conditions affecting the shoulder, elbow, forearm, wrist, thumb, hand, and fingers. The diagnoses of the controls included traumatic, degenerative, and inflammatory conditions, mostly of the legs and lower back. Women predominated among the cases (70%) and men among the controls (56%). Of 221 female cases with injury to the wrist and forearm, 32 were cleaner/domestics (14.5%) compared to 35 to 439 controls (8%), a difference statistically significant at the 2 1/2% level. Other jobs significantly overrepresented (5% level) among female cases with injuries at various anatomical sites included hairdressers, secretary/temps, assembly line workers, and machine operators (type unspecified). Among male cases, electricians were significantly overrepresented (5% level). Jobs for which there was a suggestion (p < 0.1) of overrepresentation among cases included butchers and teacher/lecturers (both males only) and the combined job groups (chosen a priori for analysis) of keyboard operators, machine operators, and music teachers (all three jobs, females only).