The Course of Nonspecific Work-Related Upper Limb Disorders and the Influence of Demographic Factors, Psychologic Factors, and Physical Fitness on Clinical Status and Disability

Marjon D. van Eijsden-Besseling*, Karien A. van den Bergh, J. Bart Staal, Rob A. de Bie, Wim J. van den Heuvel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To assess the course of nonspecific work-related upper limb disorders (WRULD) and the influence of sociodemographic factors, psychologic factors, and physical fitness on clinical status and functional disability.

Design: Retrospective cohort study with cross-sectional analysis among computer workers with several stages of nonspecific WRULD; average follow-up 4 years. Sociodemographic and medical characteristics were assessed based on medical records at onset and diagnosis. After informed consent at follow-up, participants received a questionnaire assessing psychologic and physical fitness characteristics.

Setting: Outpatient department of rehabilitation medicine, University Hospital Maastricht; tertiary referral center for nonspecific WRULD.

Participants: Computer workers (N=182) with nonspecific WRULD, 18 to 50 years, first consultation 1998 to 2001; those with specific WRULD and incomplete medical records and treatment charts were excluded.

Interventions: Not applicable.

Main Outcome Measures: Stage of nonspecific WRULD (clinical status) and Disabilities of Arm, Shoulder and Hand questionnaire [DASH] (functional disability).

Results: A total of 104 patients (57%) returned the completed questionnaire at follow-up (November 2003). Fourteen percent developed chronic benign pain syndrome, 9% recovered. The remaining (77%) worsened slightly. A higher DASH score was associated with being elderly (unstandardized regression coefficient [B=.64]), being a woman (B=10.42), having a lower educational achievement (B=9.72), and poorer self-reported physical fitness level (B=1.68); lower educational achievement and poorer self-reported physical fitness were associated with a more severe clinical status. Psycho logic factors did not influence disability or clinical status.

Conclusions: The prognosis of computer workers with nonspecific WRULD is not favorable. Those with a lower educational achievement and poorer self-reported physical fitness are at risk for a more severe clinical status and functional disability. Being elderly and a woman are also risk factors for further disability. A prospective cohort study is needed to unravel these relationships. Nevertheless, computer workers with nonspecific WRULD should be encouraged to enter fitness programs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)862-867
Number of pages6
JournalArchives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun-2010
EventPain in Europe V/5th Congress of the European-Federation-of-IASP-Chapters (EFIC) - , Turkey
Duration: 13-Sept-200616-Sept-2006


  • Rehabilitation
  • PAIN
  • NECK
  • ARM
  • HAND

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