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Musculoskeletal disorders of the upper limb and neck are a common cause of morbidity, and in some occupational groups they contribute importantly to loss of time from work.1-5Community-based surveys have indicated point prevalences of 4–20% for pain at specific sites in the neck and upper limb,6-9with lifetime prevalences as high as 60%. Morbidity surveys in primary care have found an annual incidence of first consultation for upper limb disorders of approximately 25 per 1000 person years, with rates increasing from 25 to 45 years of age and then levelling off.10
Upper limb pain may arise from discrete pathological conditions, such as adhesive capsulitis, rotator cuff tendinitis, lateral epicondylitis, and tenosynovitis, or as part of non-specific regional pain syndromes. However, few community surveys have included a clinical examination as an integral component, to enable a distinction to be drawn between these very different categories of disorder. Furthermore, the relative contribution of specific and non-specific rheumatic disorders of upper limb and neck to handicap from occupational and leisure activities is not clear (despite the fact that the risk factors may vary substantially between the two groups).
As table 1 illustrates, investigations have differed in their choice of age range, source population, prevalence period, and …
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