Musculoskeletal disorders among visual display terminal users in a telecommunications company

Ergonomics. 1994 Oct;37(10):1603-21. doi: 10.1080/00140139408964940.


The relationship between workplace factors and work-related upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders (UE disorders) was assessed in a cross-sectional study of 533 telecommunication employees utilizing video display terminals (VDTs). Cases of UE disorders were defined using symptom questionnaires and physical examinations. Data on demographics, individual factors (medical conditions and recreational activities), work organization and practices, and psychosocial aspects of work, including electronic performance monitoring (EPM), were obtained by questionnaire. Associations between workplace factors and UE disorders were assessed by multiple logistic models generated for each of the four UE areas (neck, shoulder, elbow, hand/wrists). One-hundred and eleven (22%) participants met our case definition for UE disorders. Probable tendon-related disorders were the most common (15% of participants). Probable nerve entrapment syndromes were found in 4% of participants. The hand/wrist was the area most affected, 12% of participants. The following variables had associations in the final models (p < 0.05) with at least one of the four UE disorders, although the strength of these associations were modest. Non-white race, a diagnosis of a thyroid condition (self-reported) use of bifocals at work, and seven psychosocial variables (fear of being replaced by computers, increasing work pressure, surges in workload, routine work lacking decision-making opportunities, high information processing demands, jobs which required a variety of tasks and lack of a production standard) were associated with UE disorders. This study indicates that work-related UE musculoskeletal disorders are relatively common among telecommunication workers who use VDTs, and adds to the evidence that the psychosocial work environment is related to the occurrence of these disorders.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Computer Terminals*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Telecommunications*