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Methods: A case-control study was performed in 1989 comprising 129 clinically examined cases and 655 survey controls. The study population was followed up in 1997 with a postal survey. The controls, none of which were clinically examined at baseline (1989), were divided into groups according to degree of severity of self reported symptoms in the neck/shoulders and/or arms at baseline: no symptoms, light symptoms, and severe symptoms. Cases were clinically diagnosed with a musculoskeletal disorder of the neck/shoulders and/or arms at baseline.
Results: At the 1997 follow up, there was a trend of increasing prevalence of musculoskeletal symptoms, as well as decreasing health status as rated in the SF-36 over the three severity groups among controls. Only small differences were seen between the cases and the controls reporting severe musculoskeletal symptoms or the neck/shoulders and/or arms.
Conclusion: The degree of questionnaire based self reported musculoskeletal symptoms of the neck/shoulders and/or arms clearly indicate different degrees of future health problems (both in terms of self reported musculoskeletal problems and health in general as captured by the SF-36). Therefore, there is a need for improved intervention and health promotion strategies. Such effort should be implemented before musculoskeletal symptoms have developed to clinical cases, particularly in the realm of the workplace.