Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Prevalence and correlates of regional pain and associated disability in Japanese workers
  1. Ko Matsudaira1,
  2. Keith T Palmer2,
  3. Isabel Reading3,
  4. Masami Hirai4,
  5. Noriko Yoshimura5,
  6. David Coggon2
  1. 1Clinical Research Centre for Occupational Musculoskeletal Disorders, Kanto Rosai Hospital, Kawasaki, Japan
  2. 2MRC Epidemiology Resource Centre, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
  3. 3Community Clinical Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
  4. 4Department of Nursing, University of Tokyo Hospital, Tokyo, Japan
  5. 5Department of Joint Disease Research, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
  1. Correspondence to Professor David Coggon, MRC Epidemiology Resource Centre, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK; dnc{at}


Objectives To assess the prevalence and correlates of regional pain and associated disability in four groups of Japanese workers.

Methods As part of a large international survey of musculoskeletal symptoms (the CUPID study), nurses, office workers, sales/marketing personnel and transportation operatives in Japan completed a self-administered questionnaire (response rate 83%) covering experience of pain in six anatomical regions, associated disability and sickness absence, and various possible occupational and psychosocial risk factors for these outcomes. Associations with risk factors were assessed by logistic regression.

Results Analysis was based on 2290 subjects. Rates of regional pain were generally less than in the UK, with a particularly low prevalence of wrist/hand pain among office workers (6% in past month). The strongest and most consistent risk factor for regional pain in the past month was tendency to somatise (ORs (95% CIs) for report of ≥2 versus 0 distressing somatic symptoms 3.1 (2.4 to 4.0) for low back pain, 2.8 (2.1 to 3.8) for shoulder pain, and 2.5 (1.6 to 4.1) for wrist/hand pain). Sickness absence for regional pain complaints in the past year was reported by 5% of participants, the major risk factor for this outcome being absence during the same period for other medical reasons (OR 3.7, 95% CI 2.4 to 5.8).

Conclusions Japanese office workers have markedly lower rates of wrist/hand pain than their UK counterparts. In Japan, as in Western Europe, somatising tendency is a major risk factor for regional pain. Sickness absence attributed to regional pain complaints appears to be much less common in Japan than in the UK, and to be driven principally by a general propensity to take sickness absence.

  • Musculoskeletal
  • pain
  • disability
  • sickness absence
  • somatising
  • psychology

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Funding The Medical Research Council and University of Tokyo provided funding for this study.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the University of Tokyo Ethics Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.