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Glendale, CA 91206
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Is Your Job a Pain in the Neck? Working toward an Understanding of Neck/Shoulder Pain

Posted on: 11/30/1999
If you have muscle pain in your neck and shoulders, you may wonder exactly where it comes from. Is it from doing the same tasks over and over at work? From job demands, or the amount of control and support you feel in the workplace? Or does neck pain come from personal factors such as your age, activity level, and personality?

These researchers collected information from over 3,000 workers in 19 industrial and service settings. The workers mostly did unskilled, blue-collar work.

Seven percent of the workers who did the same physical tasks over and over had neck and shoulder pain. Only four percent of workers who didn't do repetitive tasks had pain.

The researchers looked at videotapes of people working to identify specific risk factors for neck and shoulder pain. In particular, they watched for repetitive work, use of physical force, neck posture (working with the neck bent forward), and lack of shoulder rest time. All of these were associated with neck and shoulder pain. Repetitive tasks that used force were especially related to pain.

High job demands and lack of job control were both linked to neck and shoulder pain. Lack of support from coworkers and supervisors was not linked to pain, however.

Women were more likely to have neck and shoulder pain than men. So were people who had lower tolerances for pain and those who were highly invested in their work. The strongest risk factor for neck and shoulder pain was previous neck or shoulder injury. Age, body size, and physical activities done outside of work were not related to neck and shoulder pain.

Neck and shoulder pain have a strong impact on workers' lives. The more pain and muscle tenderness these workers had, the poorer their health-related quality of life. This research shows that a variety of factors, both personal and work-related, are important to neck and shoulder pain. All of these factors should be considered in prevention and treatment.

Johan Hviid Andersen, PhD, et al. Physical, Psychosocial, and Individual Risk Factors for Neck/Shoulder Pain With Pressure Tenderness in the Muscles Among Workers Performing Monotonous, Repetitive Work. In Spine. March 15, 2002. Vol. 27. No. 6. Pp. 660-667.

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