Gender adjustment or stratification in discerning upper extremity musculoskeletal disorder risk?
Objectives The aim was to explore whether “adjustment” for gender masks important exposure differences between men and women in a study of rotator cuff syndrome (RCS) and carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and work exposures.
Methods This cross-sectional study of 733 subjects in 12 health care and manufacturing workplaces used
detailed individual health and work exposure assessment methods. Multiple logistic regression analysis was used to compare gender stratified and adjusted models.
Results Prevalence of RCS and CTS among women was 7.1% and 11.3% respectively, and among men 7.8% and 6.4%. In adjusted (gender, age, body mass index) multivariate analyses of RCS and CTS, gender was not statistically significantly different. For RCS, upper arm flexion ≥45° and forceful pinch increased the odds in the gender-adjusted model (OR 2.66, 95% CI 1.26–5.59) but primarily among women in the stratified analysis (OR 6.68, 95% CI 1.81–24.66 versus OR 1.45, 95% CI 0.53–4.00). For CTS, wrist radial/ulnar deviation ≥4% time and lifting ≥4.5kg >3% time, the adjusted OR was higher for women (OR 4.85, 95% CI 2.12–11.11) and in the gender stratified analyses, the odds were increased for both genders (women OR 5.18, 95% CI 1.70–15.81 and men OR 3.63, 95% CI 1.08–12.18).
Conclusions Gender differences in response to physical work exposures may reflect gender segregation in work and potential differences in pinch and lifting capacity. Reduction in these exposures may reduce prevalence of upper extremity disorders for all workers.