Intended for healthcare professionals


The cost of shoulder pain at work

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: (Published 13 January 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:64

Variation in work tasks and good job opportunities are essential for prevention

  1. Paulien M Bongers, senior researcher
  1. Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), Institute for Work and Employment, PO Box 718, 2130 AS Hoofddorp, the Netherlands

    Shoulder pain is a common problem. In a recent large survey of musculoskeletal symptoms among the general population in the Netherlands, 21% of respondents reported having shoulder pain at the time of questioning.1 The British Tameside study found a lower but still substantial estimated prevalence of 14%.2 The one year prevalence is estimated to be 20-50% in several countries.3 Only about 40-50% of people with shoulder pain consult a primary care physician or general practitioner for it. Studies from primary care show that one year after a first consultation, 40-50% of patients report that their symptoms have persisted or recurred.4 Swedish insurance data show that 18% of disability payments made for musculoskeletal disorders was spent on neck and shoulder problems.5 Thus, shoulder pain is widespread and imposes a considerable burden on the affected person and society.

    Women seem to have more shoulder problems than men, and the frequency of shoulder pain increases with age. Smoking and previous trauma are associated with shoulder pain. People at high risk for shoulder pain include those working as cashiers, garment workers, welders, and bricklayers and those …

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