On 24 August at 10:00 Martin Argus will defend his doctoral thesis "Musculoskeletal disorders in relation to work-related factors, physical activity, functional characteristics, and COVID-19 lockdown among office workers" for obtaining the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (in Exercise and Sport Scienses).
Professor Emeritus Mati Pääsuke, University of Tartu
Associate Professor Thorvaldur Skuli Palsson, Aalborg University Hospital (Denmark)
Musculoskeletal disorders are the most common work-related health problems and the leading cause of disability in Europe. Due to rapid advances in technology, the proportion of mental labour is increasing, however, the prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders is similar to physical labour. The most common musculoskeletal disorders among office workers are neck pain, shoulder pain, and low back pain. Recently, certain novel trends have risen in office work, including remote work, activity-based office, and mobile work equipment. Activity-based workplaces are a rather new phenomenon and before the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work was also not that common. Due to the novelty of these forms of working, the literature on their potential effects on health is scarce. There is also a shortage of evidence about the effect of mobile work equipment on musculoskeletal health. In this doctoral thesis, we aimed to assess the prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders in office workers in relation to work-related factors, physical activity, functional characteristics of the neck and shoulder area, and the COVID-19 lockdown. As a result, we concluded, that the prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders is similar in office workers working in activity-based offices when compared with workers with designated workplaces. However, work-related physical activity was slightly higher in the activity-based office. This was mainly due to more postural variety and daily standing time. We also found, that using a laptop computer for work was associated with a higher prevalence of pain in the shoulder area. Despite this finding, there were no differences when the functional characteristics of the neck and shoulder area when laptop users were compared with desktop computer users. Using a laptop computer can increase the subjective discomfort in the shoulder area, but might not cause a long-term adaptation in the functional characteristics. The prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders among office workers who shifted to working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic did not change. However, the physical activity level declined, mostly due to lower sport-related physical activity.