Work related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) in the shoulder/neck area are a common and increasing problem among European computer workers, especially women. Long-term low-level workloads with low degree of muscle rest are a potential risk factor for developing WMSDs. The purpose of the present study of female computer users (age 45–65 years) in Denmark and Sweden was to investigate if subjects with self-reported neck/shoulder complaints (cases, N = 35) show less trapezius muscle relative rest time (RRT) than controls (N = 44) when performing standardised short-term computer work tasks in controlled laboratory conditions. Surface electromyography (EMG) signals were recorded bilaterally from the upper trapezius muscles during a type, edit, precision and colour word stress task. Besides RRT, 10th percentile RMS values were calculated. On the average, 15 of the cases and 18 of the controls showed analysable EMG files per task. For the colour word stress task, the results showed lower RRT values and higher 10th percentile RMS amplitude levels among cases compared to controls. No such signs could be found for the other tasks performed. The present results indicate an increased motor response to a psychological stressor among subjects with self-reported neck/shoulder complaints.
- BSS-Biomechatronics and rehabilitation technology