To investigate the ability of work-related measurements, body composition, physical activity, and fitness levels to predict neck/shoulder pain (upper body pain, UBP) at the age of 52 years. Another aim was to investigate the cross-sectional relationships between UBP, work-related factors, and individual factors at the age of 52 years.
We followed a randomly selected cohort of 429 adolescents that was recruited in 1974 (baseline), when they were 16 years old. The participants completed physical fitness tests, questions about sociodemographic and lifestyle factors at 16, 34, and 52 years of age, and questions about work-related factors and pain in the follow-ups. Logistic regression analyses were used to examine the associations between UBP and the other variables.
Univariate logistic regression analyses showed that high body mass index and the work-related factors, low control, and low social support at the age of 34 years were related to UBP at the age of 52 years. For social support, there was an interaction between men and women where the relationship between low social support and the experience of pain was more evident for women. Among women, body mass index and social support remained significantly related in the multivariate analyses. For men, social support remained significantly related. Cross-sectional relationships at the age of 52 differed from the longitudinal in the sense that measures of joint flexibility and work posture were also significantly associated with UBP.
The fact that the cross-sectional differed from the longitudinal relationships strengthens the importance of performing longitudinal studies when studying factors that might influence the initiation of pain. UBP preventative measures might need to include both lifestyle (such as dietary habits and physical activity to ensure that the individuals are not becoming overweight) and work-related factors such as social support.