Employment and occupational outcomes of workers with musculoskeletal pain in a French region

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Abstract

Objectives

To study the employment and occupational outcomes of workers who were diagnosed with upper limb musculoskeletal disorders (UL-MSDs) or had complained of upper limb musculoskeletal pain a few years before compared with workers who had no upper limb pain.

Methods

In 2002–2005, an epidemiological surveillance system was set up. Occupational physicians examined 3710 randomly selected workers. It focused on six UL-MSDs: rotator cuff syndrome, lateral epicondylitis, flexor-extensor peritendinitis of the hands and fingers, de Quervain's disease, carpal tunnel syndrome and ulnar tunnel syndrome. Three groups were constituted: a ‘UL-MSD’ group (workers with a clinically diagnosed UL-MSD at baseline, 13% of the cohort); a ‘PAIN’ group (workers with pain in the previous 7 days at baseline and without any clinically diagnosed form, 38%); and a ‘HEALTHY’ group (workers with no disorder or upper limb pain in the previous 7 days, 49%). They completed a questionnaire between 2007 and 2009.

Results

A total of 2332 responded. Fewer subjects were still in work in the ‘UL-MSD’ group (79.3%) than in the ‘PAIN’ (85.9%) and ‘HEALTHY’ (90.4%) groups, the difference remaining significant after adjusting for gender, age, occupational category, type of company and comorbidities. Of the subjects still in work, 24% had changed their work station in the same company in the ‘PAIN’ group compared with 19% in the ‘HEALTHY’ group and 21% in the ‘UL-MSD’ group.

Conclusions

This study showed the impact of musculoskeletal pain on employment outcome and the difficulty of keeping workers with musculoskeletal problems at work.

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