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The size of cycle-to-cycle variability in biomechanical exposure among butchers performing a standardised cutting task

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The effects of employment duration and pain development on motor variability were investigated during repetitive work. Electromyographic (EMG) and kinematics data from two previous studies were re-analysed. Newly employed butchers were followed prospectively in relation to employment duration and pain development. Healthy butchers with long-term experience were compared with novices. The variability of the cycle time, EMG ratio and arm and trunk movement was expressed as cycle-to-cycle standard deviations. During the first 6 months of employment, cycle time variability decreased, while posture and movement variability increased (p < 0.05). In presence of pain, the variability of the initial arm position decreased while it increased for the trunk (p < 0.05). Experienced butchers showed a larger variability than novices for work cycle and several kinematic variables, but a smaller EMG ratio variability (p < 0.05). These findings indicate that the variability of motor patterns in repetitive work changes with experience and pain. A change towards a more variable motor strategy may protect workers from work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
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Keywords: motor control; pain; variation; work experience; work-related musculoskeletal disorders

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Laboratory for Work-related Pain and Biomechanics, Center for Sensory-Motor Interaction (SMI), Department of Health Science and Technology, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark 2: Centre for Musculoskeletal Research, University of Gavle, Gavle, SE, Sweden

Publication date: July 1, 2008

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