BackgroundComplaints of Arm Neck and Shoulder (CANS) represent a wide range of complaints, which can differ in severity from mild, periodic symptoms to severe, chronic and debilitating conditions. They are thought to be associated with both physical and psychosocial risk factors. The measurement and identification of the various risk factors for these complaints is an important step towards recognizing (a) high risk subgroups that are relevant in profiling CANS; and (b) also for developing targeted and effective intervention plans for treatment. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the prevalence of CANS in a Dutch population of computer workers and to develop a questionnaire aimed at measuring workplace physical and psychosocial risk factors for the presence of these complaints.
MethodsTo examine potential workplace risk factors for the presence of CANS, the Maastricht Upper Extremity Questionnaire (MUEQ), a structured questionnaire, was developed and tested among 264 computer office workers of a branch office of the national social security institution in the Netherlands. The MUEQ holds 95 items covering demographic characteristics, in addition to seven main domains assessing potential risk factors with regard to (1) work station, (2) posture during work, (3) quality of break time, (4) job demands, (5) job control, and (6) social support. The MUEQ further contained some additional questions about the quality of the work environment and the presence of complaints in the neck, shoulder, upper and lower arm, elbow, hand and wrist. The prevalence rates of CANS in the past year were computed. Further, we investigated the psychometric properties of the MUEQ (i.e. factor structure and reliability).
ResultsThe one-year prevalence rate of CANS indicated that 54% of the respondents reported at least one complaint in the arm, neck and/or shoulder. The highest prevalence rates were found for neck and shoulder symptoms (33% and 31% respectively), followed by hand and upper arm complaints (11% to 12%) and elbow, lower arm and wrist complaints (6% to 7%). The psychometric properties of the MUEQ were assessed using exploratory factor analysis which resulted in the identification of 12 factors. The calculation of internal consistency and cross validation provided evidence of reliability and lack of redundancy of items.
ConclusionNeck and shoulder complaints are more frequently reported among Dutch computer workers than arm, elbow and hand complaints. The results further indicate that the MUEQ has satisfactory reliability and internal consistency when used to document CANS among computer workers in the Netherlands.