Occupational risk factors associated with soft tissue disorders of the shoulder: a review of recent investigations in the literature

Ergonomics. 1993 Jun;36(6):697-717. doi: 10.1080/00140139308967931.


Cumulative trauma illness currently accounts for over half of all occupational illness in the United States. From 1987 to 1989 there was a 100% increase in the reported number of cases of cumulative trauma illness (Bureau of Labor Statistics 1990). Shoulder region pain ranks second only to low back and neck pain in clinical frequency, and the occurrence of occupational shoulder illness is on the rise. This paper summarizes findings of a subset of recent epidemiologic, laboratory, and field studies conducted in order to identify occupational risk factors for cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs) of the shoulder region. These studies have identified the following risk factors as being associated with particular shoulder pain syndromes: awkward or static postures, heavy work, direct load bearing, repetitive arm movements, working with hands above shoulder height, and lack of rest. The paper begins with a discussion of several shoulder disorders, includes problems in studying cumulative trauma, presents results of recent studies, and concludes with suggested ergonomic controls that could help to reduce the incidence of shoulder disorders, by eliminating or reducing exposure to the associated risk factors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bursitis / etiology*
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Shoulder Injuries*
  • Tendinopathy / etiology*
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome / etiology*
  • Work Capacity Evaluation