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The association between manual handling operations and pain in the hands and arms in the context of the 2018 BIBB/BAuA Employment Survey

Background: Manual handling operations (MHO) are tasks performed by hand that require repetitive and forceful hand and arm movements. MHO are currently performed in many workplaces in skilled and unskilled jobs in the production and service sectors. MHO are considered as work-related health risk factors. The relationship between MHO and the occurrence of disorders of the upper extremities has been established. MHO can cause diseases such as tenosynovitis or carpal tunnel syndrome. This study aims to assess the current prevalence of MHO in the German workforce and to evaluate the relationship between MHO and the occurrence of hand and arm complaints.

Methods: The analysis was based on the German 2018 BIBB/BAuA Employment Survey. For this analysis we included subjects aged between 16 and 66 who work at least 35 h per week. The self-reported frequency of MHO (never; rarely; sometimes; often) was considered as the exposure of interest and was stratified by gender and occupation. Prevalence ratios (PR) were used to report the relationship between MHO and self-reported pain in the hands and arms (robust log-linear Poisson regression). Adjustments were made for age, gender, actual weekly working hours, psychosocial workload, and other physical workloads. The regression analyses considered complete cases.

Results: The analyses included 14,299 employees. Frequent MHO were reported by 32.6% of men and 31.1% of women. These workloads were often reported by respondents who work in the agricultural sector (men: 70.1%; women: 79.0%), in unskilled (men: 59.4%; women: 66.9%), and skilled manual occupations (men: 72.7%; women: 66.7%).
A higher frequency of self-reported MHO was associated with a higher prevalence of hand complaints (PR 2.26 CI 2.00–2.55 "often" vs. "never"= ref.) as well as arm pain (PR 1.73 CI 1.55–1.92 for "often" vs. "never" = ref.).

Conclusion: MHO are still frequent in many occupations. The shown association between MHO and pain in the hands and arms demonstrates the importance of MHO in the current German workforce and the necessity to further develop prevention strategies.

The complete article is published in the Journal "BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders" (2021).

Bibliographic information

C. Müller, M. Sauter, J. Barthelme, F. Liebers:
The association between manual handling operations and pain in the hands and arms in the context of the 2018 BIBB/BAuA Employment Survey. 
in: BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, Volume 22 2021. pages 1-13, Project number: F 2456, PDF file, DOI: 10.1186/s12891-021-04495-z

download file "The association between manual handling operations and pain in the hands and arms in the context of the 2018 BIBB/BAuA Employment Survey" (PDF, 1 MB, Not barrier-free file)

Research Project

Project numberF 2456 StatusCompleted Project Prevalence of physical workloads in the German workforce and its associations to musculoskeletal disorders

Find out more : Prevalence of physical workloads in the German workforce and its associations to musculoskeletal disorders …

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