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Prevalence and impact of musculoskeletal disorders of the upper limb in the general population

Walker-Bone, Karen, Palmer, Keith T., Reading, Isabel, Coggon, David and Cooper, Cyrus (2004) Prevalence and impact of musculoskeletal disorders of the upper limb in the general population Arthritis & Rheumatism, 51, (4), pp. 642-651. (doi:10.1002/art.20535).

Record type: Article


Objective: To determine the prevalence, interrelation, and impact of musculoskeletal disorders of the upper limb in the general population.
Methods: A total of 9,696 randomly selected adults of working age were surveyed in a 2-stage cross-sectional study involving a screening questionnaire and a standardized physical examination in symptomatic subjects. Age- and sex-specific prevalence rates were estimated for several musculoskeletal disorders and for nonspecific pain in the upper limbs. The overlap and impact on daily activities and healthcare utilization were explored.
Results: Among 6,038 first-stage responders, 3,152 reported upper limb symptoms and 1,960 were subsequently examined. Of subjects with pain, 44.8% had 1 or more specific soft-tissue disorders. Site-specific prevalence rates were as follows: shoulder tendinitis 4.5% among men and 6.1% among women; adhesive capsulitis 8.2% among men and 10.1% among women; lateral epicondylitis 1.3% among men and 1.1% among women; de Quervain's disease 0.5% among men and 1.3% among women; other tenosynovitis of the hand or wrist, 1.1% among men and 2.2% among women. Specific disorders tended to cluster (P < 0.001) in individuals, with particular overlap at the shoulder. Compared with subjects with nonspecific pain, those with specific disorders more often reported inability to perform everyday tasks (P < 0.05), consultation with a doctor (P < 0.05), and use of prescribed medication (P < 0.05).
Conclusion: Upper limb pain is common in the general population and is often associated with physical signs suggestive of specific upper-limb disorders. These disorders have a substantial impact on physical function and use of health care.

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More information

Published date: August 2004
Keywords: epidemiology, upper limb disorders, soft-tissue rheumatism, prevalence, impact
Organisations: Community Clinical Sciences, Dev Origins of Health & Disease


Local EPrints ID: 24543
ISSN: 0004-3591
PURE UUID: ff94c686-f3a4-4f3c-abf1-212fb311eae0
ORCID for Karen Walker-Bone: ORCID iD
ORCID for David Coggon: ORCID iD
ORCID for Cyrus Cooper: ORCID iD

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 31 Mar 2006
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 16:13

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