Study design: A sample of 486 Helsinki City Council workers, 35 to 54 years of age, was examined twice at a 1-year interval.
Objectives: To investigate the speed of repetitive arm motion for its ability to predict neck pain.
Summary of background data: Psychomotor factors have been suggested to play a role in the etiology of spinal disorders. It was hypothesized that motor skills, as reflected by arm motion speed, could provide protection against neck pain.
Methods: Both the baseline and follow-up examinations consisted of a questionnaire on the history of neck pain and of a number of tests, including arm motion speed and static and dynamic strength of the upper extremities.
Results: Of the 124 men and women who reported not having had neck pain during the 1 year before the baseline examination, 23 (19%) reported neck pain on reexamination. The incidence of neck pain was significantly higher both in the least and most rapid quintiles of arm motion speed than in the medium quintiles. This association was not confounded by age, sex, smoking, physical activity at work or at leisure, psychological distress score, or strength measures of the upper extremities, although these factors were significant covariates of the arm motion speed at baseline. When adjusted for these factors, the odds ratios of neck pain in the most and least rapid quintiles of arm motion speed were 8.68 (95% confidence interval 1.85-40.75) and 9.57 (95% confidence interval 2.21-41.52) respectively, compared with the medium quintiles.
Conclusions: These results suggest that people with either very slow or very rapid arm motion speed may have an increased risk of neck pain. The etiology of neck pain is probably different on these two occasions.