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December/January 2019/2020 (vol. 16/4)

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The Arm pain trial

Activity not rest for regional arm pain


New research suggests that non-specific arm pain should be managed in a similar way to low back pain: patients should remain active rather than rest. On behalf of the Arm pain trial team, Kim Burton, Karen Walker-Bone and Gareth T Jones summarise the findings and explain their significance for the management of work-related upper limb disorders.

Arm pain, whether non-specific (‘regional’) or due to specific diagnoses, is highly prevalent among the working-age population: the annual prevalence of pain lasting more than one day is around 50%. Arm pain is frequently work-relevant, with some four million working days lost annually to ‘work-related upper limb disorders’. Furthermore, of those consulting with distal arm pain (affecting the elbow, forearm, wrist and/or hand) 50% still report pain a year later, with a substantial minority experiencing persistent symptoms and/or disability1. . This prolongation of symptoms and disability is in fact similar to the epidemiology of non-specific low back pain…


Kim Burton is a freelance researcher and professor of occupational healthcare at the University of Huddersfield.

Karen Walker-Bone is director of the MRC Versus Arthritis Centre for Musculoskeletal Health and Work, University of Southampton.

Gareth T Jones is reader of epidemiology at the Aberdeen Centre for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Health, University of Aberdeen, and one of the lead investigators of the MRC Versus Arthritis Centre for Musculoskeletal Health and Work.


Author: Burton K, Walker-Bone K, Jones G


Occupational Health at Work December/January 2019/2020 (vol. 16/4) pp16-18

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