Objectives: To study the occurrence of shoulder symptoms among professional kitchen workers, and whether the reduction in self-perceived and observed physical work load decreases future symptoms.
Methods: In this prospective study conducted in 2002-2005 in municipal kitchens in Finland, the changes during one-year follow-up in the physical strenuousness of the work tasks were self-assessed by 376 female workers (Substudy I). Also the changes in exposure to manual lifting and awkward upper arm posture during the follow-up were observed by experts in 69 kitchens including 183 workers (Substudy II). The information on shoulder symptoms was collected with questionnaires at baseline and follow-up. The risk of shoulder symptoms at follow-up related to the changes in exposure was estimated with logistic regression.
Results: The 3-month prevalence of shoulder pain was 34% at baseline and 41% at follow-up. Reduction during follow-up in the work task perceived as physically the most strenuous, i.e. receiving and storing of raw material, led to a significantly reduced risk of future shoulder pain with adjusted odds ratio (OR) of 0.41 (95% confidence interval 0.17-0.98) and trouble caused by the pain with OR of 0.34 (0.14-0.83). Also the observed reduction in lifting was associated with a lower risk for future shoulder symptoms.
Conclusions: Reduction in lifting showed beneficial protective effects on the shoulder. Although more risk factor and intervention studies are needed to estimate the health impact of kitchen work, special attention in the risk assessment and preventive measures should be paid to work tasks that include lifting.
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