Research

Occupational standing and occupational exertion: association with musculoskeletal symptoms

Observational studies have linked occupational standing or walking to musculoskeletal pain. Researchers from the USA noted that these prior studies were flawed as few accounted for physical exertion; a potential confounder that accompanies many standing-based occupations. The purpose of their study was to examine the individual and joint associations of occupational standing/walking and exertion with musculoskeletal symptoms.

The researchers, from Columbia University, New York, took data from the 2015 National Health Interview Survey, a US nationally representative survey. Occupational standing/walking and exertion were assessed by self-report on a 5-pointscale. The presence of musculoskeletal symptoms (pain, aching and stiffness) for upper extremities (neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists and fingers), lower extremities (hips, knees, ankles and toes) and lower back was also assessed.

They found that occupational standing/walking was associated with a greater likelihood of upper extremity, lower extremity and lower back musculoskeletal symptoms. However, with adjustment for exertion, the associations were attenuated and no longer significant. When stratified by levels of occupational exertion, occupational standing/walking was associated with musculoskeletal symptoms only among the group with high exertion for lower back symptoms comparing high/high for standing or walking/exertion vs low/low). Among groups with low exertion, occupational standing/walking was not associated with musculoskeletal symptoms for lower back symptoms comparing high/low for standing or walking/exertion vs low/low).

The researchers concluded that the results suggest that the association between occupational standing/walking and musculoskeletal symptoms is largely driven by the co-occurrence of occupational exertion and does not provide evidence that standing or walking incurs adverse musculoskeletal symptoms.
Source: Friel CP, Pascual CB, Duran AT, et al, Joint associations of occupational standing and occupational exertion with musculoskeletal symptoms in a US national sample [Abstract], Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 

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