The impact of occupational and personal factors on musculoskeletal pain - A cohort study of female nurses, sonographers and teachers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Musculoskeletal pain is common in the general population and constitutes a major public health problem. A large proportion of these conditions may be work related. The aim of this study was to explore the relative importance of physical, psychosocial and personal factors, in number of pain sites and in five specific pain sites, among women in common professions with a broad variety of occupational exposures. Methods: A cohort of 1115 women responded to a questionnaire on ergonomic, psychosocial, personal and life-style factors, and the outcome measure of musculoskeletal pain (based on frequency and intensity of complaints at nine anatomical sites), at baseline and at follow-up. Sum scores of ergonomic and psychosocial factors were created. The importance of exposure at baseline for the number of pain sites at follow-up were estimated using ordinal regression. The importance of exposure at baseline for pain in the neck, shoulders, hands, lower back and feet at follow-up were estimated using multi-exposure Poisson regression models. Results: High sum scores for ergonomic and psychosocial factors were of importance for a high number of pain sites, although the strongest risk factor was a high number of pain sites already at baseline. On the individual level, there was a large fluctuation in number of pain sites between the two time points. Eighteen percent reported persistent (or recurrent) ≥ four pain sites, while only 11 % did not report any pain at baseline or at follow-up. Among the specific pain sites, a high sum score of ergonomic factors was associated with pain in the neck, hands and feet. A high sum score of psychosocial factors was associated with neck and shoulder pain. The strongest risk factor was, however, pain at that specific anatomical site at baseline. Only a few of the personal and life-style factors were associated with pain. Conclusions: An overwhelming majority of the women in common occupations were affected by musculoskeletal pain. Both ergonomic and psychosocial factors were predictive of a high number of pain sites and of specific pain sites. These findings indicate the need for preventive measures on the individual, organizational and societal level.


External organisations
  • Institute of Stress Medicine
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Environmental Health and Occupational Health


  • Longitudinal study, Multisite pain, Multivariable model, Musculoskeletal disorders, Regional pain
Original languageEnglish
Article number621
JournalBMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Publication categoryResearch