Manual Therapy 2005 (Nov); 10 (4): 270—280
Szeto GPY, et al.
Work-related neck and upper limb disorders (WRNULD) are common problems among office workers who use computers intensively and maintain prolonged static postures. These disorders have often been attributed to result from sustained muscle activity in the neck-shoulder musculature. The present study examined whether symptomatic subjects exhibited the same muscle activity patterns as asymptomatic controls when they performed a prolonged computer task under the same conditions. Surface electromyography (EMG) of four major neck-shoulder muscles were compared between a Case Group (n=23) and a Control Group (n=20) of female office workers. The Case Group had higher activity in the right upper trapezius (UT) while the Control Group had more symmetrical muscle activity between left and right UT. The Case subjects could also be differentiated into “High Discomfort” and “Low Discomfort” sub-groups based on their discomfort scores. The High Discomfort Group had significantly higher right UT activity compared to the Low Discomfort and Control Groups. Results suggested that symptomatic individuals had altered muscle recruitment patterns that persisted throughout the sustained occupational task, while discomfort increased with time-at-task. These findings indicate that altered muscle recruitment patterns observed in the symptomatic subjects preceded the onset of task discomfort, and this finding may have important implications for the etiology of WRNULD.