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    describing the models and mechanisms characterizing the load-response relationships and the consequences (adaptation, impairment, disability) for musculoskeletal structures of the neck, the upper extremities, and the low back.

  • Evaluate the state of the medical and behavioral science literature on the character of jobs and job tasks, the conditions surrounding task performance, and the interactions of person, job, and organizational factors and, in addition, examine the research literature on the individual and nonwork-related activities that can contribute to or help prevent or remediate musculoskeletal disorders.

  • Assess the strengths and weaknesses of core datasets that form the basis for examining the incidence and epidemiology of musculoskeletal disorders reported in the workplace.

  • Examine knowledge concerning programs and practices associated with primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention of musculoskeletal injuries, ranging from organization-wide promotion of a safety culture to modified work and a variety of clinical treatment programs.

  • Characterize the future of work, how the workforce and jobs are changing and the potential impact of these changes on the incidence of musculoskeletal disorders.

  • Identify the most important gaps in the science base and recommend needed research.

The disorders of particular interest to the panel, in light of its charge, focus on the low back and the upper extremities. Some of these are clinically clear-cut, others less so. With regard to the upper extremities, these include rotator cuff injuries (lateral and medial), epicondylitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, tenosynovitis of the hand and wrist (including DeQuervain's stenosing tenosynovitis, trigger finger, and others), and a variety of nonspecific wrist complaints, syndromes, and regional discomforts lacking clinical specificity. With regard to the low back, there are many disabling syndromes that occur in the absence of defined radiographic abnormalities, or commonly occur in the presence of unrelated radiographic abnormalities. Thus, the most common syndrome is non-specific backache. Other disorders of interest include back pain and sciatica due to displacement and degeneration of lumbar intervertebral discs with radiculopathy, spondylolysis, spondylolisthesis, and spinal stenosis2


2Radiculopathy is a disease of the roots of the spinal nerves. Spondylosis is a defect in the spinal arch—the part of the vertebrae that lies behind the nerves and the spinal cord. Spondylolisthesis is the slippage of a vertebra on the vertebra below. Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal, usually due to osteoarthritis and sometimes with pressure on the nerve root.



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