The usefulness of two symptom surveys was evaluated through a review of the literature on the acceptability, validity, and reliability of the Nordic Musculoskeletal Questionnaire (NMQ) and by presenting new analyses which assess the validity and reliability of the NIOSH symptom survey. The goal of the NMQ was to be a simple standardized questionnaire that could be used as a screening method for musculoskeletal disorders as part of ergonomic programs and epidemiologic studies of musculoskeletal disorders. The NIOSH symptom survey uses a similar body part diagram as the NMQ, but adds a series of questions to determine the severity of discomfort by quantifying the frequency, duration, and intensity of symptoms for each body part area using a scaled response. Reliability was assessed through test retest methods and inter item correlations between similar questions. Validity was assessed by comparison with results from physical examination assessments of workers and self reports of workers seeking medical care. The evaluation of the validity of both these symptom surveys focused on evidence for a relationship between reports of discomfort and other objective measures of impairment, such as physical examination maneuvers. Both reliability and validity were acceptable for the purposes of workplace ergonomics programs. Implications for use of these surveys for prevention and treatment outcomes research are discussed.
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