Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 1997;23(2):130-139    pdf

doi:10.5271/sjweh.190

Associations between self-rated psychosocial work conditions and musculoskeletal symptoms and signs

by Toomingas A, Theorell T, Michélsen H, Nordemar R, Stockholm MUSIC I Study Group

Objectives The aim was to study the associations between self-rated psychosocial work conditions and the characteristics and location of musculoskeletal symptoms, signs, and syndromes. Methods Perceived psychosocial work conditions were recorded in a cross-sectional study with 358 men and women in various occupations. Symptoms were recorded from the musculoskeletal system with a questionnaire, and signs were detected in a medical examination of all body regions. The analyses of statistical associations between the psychosocial factors and musculoskeletal disorders were performed with control for age, gender, and physical load. Results The most consistent and pronounced associations were mainly seen between poor psychosocial work conditions and coexisting symptoms and signs of the neck and back regions. Poor psychosocial work conditions were more consistently and strongly associated with signs of muscular (soft tissue) tenderness than with signs of tenderness in the joints, tendons or muscular insertions or signs in nerve compression tests. Mainly low social support at work, but also high psychological demands and high job strain, were associated with such symptoms and signs, whereas decision latitude at work showed few associations with musculoskeletal disorders. Conclusions Perceived poor psychosocial work conditions are statistically associated mainly with symptoms and signs of muscular tenderness in the central body regions. Studies on associations between psychosocial work conditions and musculoskeletal disorders should separate effect measures of different clinical signs and different body regions in order to avoid attenuation of the risk estimates.

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