Lifting weights with one or two hands, pushing or pulling heavy loads, working with hands at or above shoulder level and monotonous work are the best predictors of new onset shoulder pain according to a two year prospective cohort study that evaluated physical and psychosocial risk factors among over 1000 workers from 12 diverse professions. Those with any other previous pain also had an increased risk of new onset shoulder pain.
Subjects initially completed a 23 page questionnaire regarding work related manual handling activities, postures, repetitive movements, job satisfaction, monotonous/boring work, work pace, stress/worry, control over work, ability to learn new things, support from colleagues/supervisors, and workplace temperature. Subjects who had shoulder pain lasting for one day or longer during the prior month were eliminated from the study.
Twelve months later, subjects were sent the same questionnaire. Those having shoulder pain lasting for one day or longer during the prior month were identified (93 found) and their original risk factor questionnaire assessed.
Subjects who were still without shoulder pain were again questioned at 24 months. Those having shoulder pain lasting for one day or longer during the prior month were identified (73 found) and their 12 month risk factor questionnaire assessed. In each instance (12 month and 24 month), 15 percent of respondents reported new shoulder pain.
Harkness E.F., Macfarlane G.J., Nahit E.S., Silman A.J. and McBeth J. “Mechanical and psychosocial factors predict new onset shoulder pain: a prospective cohort study of newly employed workers. “Occupational and Environmental Medicine 60: 850-857, 2003.
This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2004-04-01.