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September 1983, Vol. 106, No. 9

Motion-related wrist disorders traced
to industries, occupational groups

Roger C. Jensen, Bruce P. Klein and Lee M. Sanderson

Tasks which require workers to perform certain repetitive motions have been reported to contribute to the incidence of a variety of occupational diseases.1  The Bureau of Labor Statistics 1979 annual survey of occupational injuries and illness found 21,900 cases that were associated with work activities involving repeated motions, vibrations, or pressure.2  But while this statistic may help one to appreciate the magnitude of the problem, the annual survey does not obtain data pertaining to body part involved, which would permit the identification of anatomical areas most frequently affected by the stress of repetitive motions; nor does it permit identification of jobs most associated with repetitive motion disorders.

Fortunately, the Bureau has developed an alternate database, the Supplementary Data System (SDS), that does make such analysis possible. The following discussion demonstrates the use of the SDS, which is derived from State records of workers' compensation claims, in investigating the occurrence of one group of motion-related disorders—those involving the soft tissues of the wrist and hand. Such disorders are of interest because many industrial tasks require repetitive motions that subject the soft tissues of the wrist and hand to a low level, high frequency form of trauma.3  Earlier studies, on a more limited scale, have shown that several disorders of the wrist (including carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, and tenosynovitis) have a larger incidence among workers whose occupations entail frequent, repetitive hand movements.4

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1 Leo Hymovich and Miuriuamn Lindholm, "Hand, wrist and forearm injuries, the result of repetitive motions," Journal of Occupational Medicine, November 1966, pp. 573-77, and Norman M. Hadler, "Industrial rheumatology: clinical investigations into the influence of the pattern of usage on the pattern of regional musculo-skeletal disease," Arthritis and Rheumatism, May 1977, pp. 1019-25

2 Data are from Occupational Injuries and Illnesses in 1979: Summary, Bulletin 2097 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1981), p. 29

3 Thomas J. Armstrong, "Carpal tunnel syndrome and the female workers," Transactions of the Forty-third Annual Meeting of the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienist (Cincinnati, Ohio, American Conference of Government Industrial Hygienists, Inc., 1982), pp. 26-35.

4 Lawrence J. Cannon, Edward J. Bernacki, and Stephen D. Walter, "Personal and occupational factors associated with carpal tunnel syndrome," Journal of Occupational Medicine, April 1981, pp. 255-58; Tuulikki Lupopajarvi, Ilkka Kuorinka, Markku Virolainen, and Mia Holmberg, "Prevalence of tenosynovitis and other injuries of the upper extremities in repetitive work," Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health, 1979, Suppl. 3, pp. 48-55; M.Q. Birkbeck and T.C. Beer, "Occupation in relation to carpal tunnel syndrome," Rheumatology and Rehabilitation, November 1975, pp. 218-21; and Teresa W. Lewis, "An unnecessary byproduct of industry," Ohio Monitor, March 1980, pp. 14-16.

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