Scand J Work Environ Health 1999;25 suppl 4:19-24    pdf

Effects of physical and mental stressors on muscle pain

by Westgaard RH

Physical and mental stressors as risk factors for pain development are discussed. These multifaceted stressor terms are narrowed down so that physical stressors are represented by muscle activity recorded by electromyography (EMG), while mental stress is considered synonymous with psychosocial stress in vocational studies; in experimental studies cognitive stress is used as a model. Pain in the shoulder and neck are focused and related to EMG recordings of activity in the trapezius muscle. Major challenges in this field include proper risk assessment at low physical work loads and criteria for evaluating stress as a risk factor. A 3-factor conceptual model is presented in which the independent dimensions physical work load, mental stress, and individual sensitivity determine the risk of shoulder and neck complaints. It is pointed out that a predominant reduction in physical work load for many jobs and an increasing interaction between work conditions and the general life situation of workers pose particular challenges for risk assessment.

The following articles refer to this text: 2001;27(4):258-267; 2002;28(4):211-213