Open Access Research article

Individual and work-related risk factors for musculoskeletal pain: a cross-sectional study among Estonian computer users

Kristel Oha12*, Liina Animägi3, Mati Pääsuke4, David Coggon5 and Eda Merisalu2

Author Affiliations

1 North Estonia Medical Centre, J. Sütiste tee 19, 13419 Tallinn, Estonia

2 Department of Public Health, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia

3 Tartu Health Care College, Tartu, Estonia

4 Institute of Exercise Biology and Physiotherapy, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia

5 MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2014, 15:181  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-15-181

Published: 28 May 2014



Occupational use of computers has increased rapidly over recent decades, and has been linked with various musculoskeletal disorders, which are now the most commonly diagnosed occupational diseases in Estonia. The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of musculoskeletal pain (MSP) by anatomical region during the past 12 months and to investigate its association with personal characteristics and work-related risk factors among Estonian office workers using computers.


In a cross-sectional survey, the questionnaires were sent to the 415 computer users. Data were collected by self-administered questionnaire from 202 computer users at two universities in Estonia. The questionnaire asked about MSP at different anatomical sites, and potential individual and work related risk factors. Associations with risk factors were assessed by logistic regression.


Most respondents (77%) reported MSP in at least one anatomical region during the past 12 months. Most prevalent was pain in the neck (51%), followed by low back pain (42%), wrist/hand pain (35%) and shoulder pain (30%). Older age, right-handedness, not currently smoking, emotional exhaustion, belief that musculoskeletal problems are commonly caused by work, and low job security were the statistically significant risk factors for MSP in different anatomical sites.


A high prevalence of MSP in the neck, low back, wrist/arm and shoulder was observed among Estonian computer users. Psychosocial risk factors were broadly consistent with those reported from elsewhere. While computer users should be aware of ergonomic techniques that can make their work easier and more comfortable, presenting computer use as a serious health hazard may modify health beliefs in a way that is unhelpful.

Computer workers; Musculoskeletal pain; Risk factors; CUPID study