Knowledge on the long-term prognosis of neck-shoulder pain is sparse. The aim is to investigate the long-term prognosis on neck and shoulder symptoms and employment for former sewing machine operators.
Baseline data on neck-shoulder disorders were collected in 1994–95 for 243 sewing machine operators. In 1996, all participants lost their jobs because of outsourcing of the industry to other countries. In 2008, a follow-up questionnaire was mailed to the participants regarding neck and shoulder symptoms. In total, 162 responded (equivalent to a response rate of 70%). Furthermore, complete register-data regarding work, health and public transfer incomes was retrieved for all the original participants.
Neck-shoulder disorders at baseline was significantly associated with neck-shoulder pain in 2008, with an adjusted OR (95% CI) on 5.26 (1.79–15.39). Neck-shoulder disorders also increased the risk for a poorer occupational prognosis with crude OR 2.60 (1.30–5.20) for being at work less than 50% of the time 1996–2008. The overall picture for type of incomes changed markedly after dismissal, indicating a shift from mainly self-support before dismissal to more unstable and often changing incomes in several years after.
Neck-shoulder disorders were associated to symptoms 14 years after diagnosis and to a poorer work status after loss of job. This emphasises the importance for optimising prevention strategies against neck-shoulder disorders, and calls for attention on neck-shoulder problems among unemployed groups. The overall unstable picture of the occupational situation in the years after closure of the industrial plants indicates that register-based estimates like return-to-work/time until first date of self-support may often be too simple in dealing with work-status-outcomes.
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