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Skin temperature in the dorsal hand of office workers and severity of upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders.

Gold JE; Cherniack M; Hanlon A; Dennerlein JT; Dropkin J
Int Arch Occup Environ Health 2009 Nov; 82(10):1281-1292
OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to examine the suitability of using mean dorsal (hand) skin temperature (MDT) before and after a short typing task as an indicator of upper extremity musculoskeletal disorder (UEMSD) severity. In addition, MDT reproducibility in controls was assessed for a pre-typing and three post-typing time periods over three trials. METHODS: Asymptomatic office workers (n = 10) and office workers with distal UEMSD symptoms (n = 35) typed for 9 min at three ambient temperatures (18, 22, and 26 degrees C). Pre- and post-trial MDT was measured by infrared thermography. UEMSD severity was defined anamnestically by symptoms and by a physical examination and symptom-derived case definition. RESULTS: Good to excellent reproducibility (intra-class correlation coefficients = 0.46-0.85) for MDT was found in controls at 22 degrees C. At 18 and 22 degrees C, pre-typing MDT differed between controls and cases by number of symptom sites marked on a hand-arm diagram (ANOVA, P <or= 0.05), and by number of UEMSD case definitions met (ANOVA, P <or= 0.05). Post hoc analyses showed colder temperatures in the most severely affected cases in comparison with controls. No post-typing skin temperature differentiation by severity was found. CONCLUSION: Reduced dorsal hand skin temperature after acclimating to an ambient temperature of 18-22 degrees C in those with more severe UEMSDs may reflect an underlying dysfunctional sympathetic nervous system. Further testing in epidemiological cohorts would be desirable to evaluate the generalizability and feasibility of this physiological measurement for UEMSD severity in the workplace.
Epidemiology; Ergonomics; Exposure-methods; Hand-injuries; Musculoskeletal-system; Musculoskeletal-system-disorders; Physiological-effects; Physiological-measurements; Physiological-response; Skin; Skin-sensitivity; Standards; Statistical-analysis; Temperature-effects; Temperature-measurement; Work-environment; Workplace-studies; Author Keywords: Sympathetic nervous system; Thermography; Computer user; Cutaneous perfusion; Reproducibility
Judith Gold, Department of Public Health, Temple University, 1301 Cecil B. Moore Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19122
Publication Date
Document Type
Journal Article
Email Address
Funding Type
Grant; Cooperative Agreement
Fiscal Year
Identifying No.
Grant-Number-K01-OH-008134; Cooperative-Agreement-Number-U01-OH-007312
Issue of Publication
Source Name
International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health
Performing Organization
Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division