OBJECTIVE--The aim was to study the association between personal factors and physical and psychosocial work environment factors and disorders of the neck or upper limbs among women in the fish processing industry. METHODS--A cross sectional study was performed on 206 women in the fish processing industry and 208 control women. Several physical and psychosocial work environment factors were evaluated. Subjective complaints about the neck or upper limbs were assessed by questionnaire and by a clinical examination. RESULTS--The study showed a high prevalence (35%) of diagnoses in the neck or shoulders of the exposed women. All prevalence odds ratios (POR's) were substantially higher in young women. There was a pronounced dose-response relation between disorders of the neck or shoulders and duration of employment for women < 45 years old. When studying 322 former workers, the proportion who claimed musculoskeletal complaints as the reason for leaving was highest among the older women. Muscular tension, stress or worry, work strain, and the largest fraction of the work time spent with highly repetitive work tasks were clearly associated with disorders of the neck or shoulders. The measurements of the wrist movements also showed that the work was performed almost without any pauses and that the median flexion and extension velocity was high (41 degree/s). The results of observation showed good agreement with the measurements of wrist motion. CONCLUSION--Work in the fish processing industry is a risk factor for disorders of the neck and upper limbs. Due to the homogenity of the physical work load in the exposed group, we could not show any associations between the objective measurements and disorders. In cross sectional studies the risk may be underestimated due to a healthy worker effect.
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