Claims incidence of work-related disorders of the upper extremities: Washington state, 1987 through 1995

Am J Public Health. 1998 Dec;88(12):1827-33. doi: 10.2105/ajph.88.12.1827.


Objectives: This study examined the claim incidence rate, cost, and industry distribution of work-related upper extremity disorders in Washington.

Methods: Washington State Fund workers' compensation claims from 1987 to 1995 were abstracted and categorized into general and specific disorders of gradual or sudden onset.

Results: Accepted claims included 100,449 for hand/wrist disorders (incidence rate: 98.2/10,000 full-time equivalents; carpal tunnel syndrome rate: 27.3), 30,468 for elbow disorders (incidence rate: 29.7; epicondylitis rate: 11.7), and 55,315 for shoulder disorders (incidence rate: 54.0; rotator cuff syndrome rate: 19.9). Average direct workers' compensation claims costs (medical treatment and indemnity) were $15,790 (median: $6774) for rotator cuff syndrome, $12,794 for carpal tunnel syndrome (median: $4190), and $6593 for epicondylitis (median: $534). Construction and food processing were among the industries with the highest rate ratios for all disorders (> 4.0).

Conclusions: Upper extremity disorders represent a large and costly problem in Washington State industry. Industries characterized by manual handling and repetitive work have high rate ratios. The contingent workforce appears to be at high risk.

MeSH terms

  • Absenteeism
  • Adult
  • Arm*
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / economics
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / etiology
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs / trends
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Insurance Claim Reporting / trends*
  • Insurance, Health / trends
  • Male
  • Occupational Diseases / economics
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology
  • Occupations
  • Risk Factors
  • Washington / epidemiology
  • Workers' Compensation / trends*