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Research shows sex/gender may play a role in how workers experience MSDs

June 28, 2016

Toronto – Women report pain and other symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders in the neck and upper limbs about twice as often as men, who are more likely to have lower-back injuries, according to research from McGill University in Montreal.

Researchers claim sex and gender differences may play a role. Women have more type 1 muscle fibers, which provide increased endurance, potentially allowing them to perform tasks for longer periods of time. Women also are more likely to engage in repetitive tasks and use their muscles to near capacity to make up for differences in strength, according to a university press release. These factors could explain the higher risk of muscle overload that results in an increased risk for neck and shoulder injuries, the researchers stated.

Differences in how women move, feel pain, react to fatigue and acclimate to stress, as well as differences in job control and social roles, also could be a factor.

“In sum, the question we need to ask may not be, ‘Are men and women different?’ but ‘How much so?’” Julie Côté, associate professor and chair of the department of kinesiology and physical education at McGill University, said in the release. “This question is all the more pertinent when considering making workplace adaptations to prevent work-related MSDs.”

The researchers recommend that ergonomic practitioners take these factors into consideration when adjusting workplaces.

The research was presented June 23 at the 9th International Scientific Conference on the Prevention of Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders.