OBJECTIVES: To study the determinants of signs of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) in repetitive industrial work, with special attention to occupational constraints at group level and management practices of the companies. METHOD: A cross sectional study was conducted in three sectors: assembly line; clothing and shoe industry; food industry. A total of 1210 workers in repetitive work, from 53 different companies, was compared with a control group of 337 workers. Constraints at the workplace were partly self declared, and partly assessed by the occupational physicians in charge of the employees of the company. The definition of CTS was based on a standardised clinical examination. RESULTS: CTS was associated with repetitive work, especially packaging. It was more frequent among subjects who declared psychological and psychosomatic problems and those with a body mass index > or = 27. Dissatisfaction with work, lack of job control, short cycle time, and having to press repeatedly with the hand were associated with the syndrome. An odds ratio (OR) of 2.24 was found for "just in time" production. CONCLUSION: The results emphasise the complexity of the determinants of CTS, the role of psychosocial factors at work and the potentially negative effects of some practices of the companies aimed at enhancing their competitiveness.
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