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Workers May Too Often Attribute Arm Pain to Their Job

British study questions the validity of self-reported arm pain

FRIDAY, Dec. 7 (HealthDay News) -- People who report having arm pain are likely to overestimate the degree to which that pain is work-related, according to the results of a study published online Dec. 4 in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Keith T. Palmer, of the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, and colleagues mailed questionnaires to nearly 5,000 adults chosen at random from five British general practices. Questions were related to occupational status, arm pain (defined as pain lasting a day or longer during the last year), source of the arm pain, health in general and mental health. A relative risk from arm-straining activity was estimated and used to derive a population attributable fraction.

Of 1,769 complete responses from working individuals, 46 percent reported arm pain. Of those, 53 percent either attributed their arm pain directly to their work (24 percent) or said that their pain, though not originally caused by work, was made worse by work (29 percent). The estimated population attributable fraction was 13.9 percent. Over-attribution of pain to work was higher among respondents younger than 50 and among those whose self-reported health scores and combined mental health scores were worse.

"Our findings cast doubt on the validity of one of the major sources of information that governments are using to evaluate the success of European occupational health strategy," Palmer's team writes.

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