Objectives The aims were to study the association between anabolic hormone
testosterone in plasma and the presence of musculoskeletal disorders among
female workers and to study the association between changes in testosterone
and changes in musculoskeletal complaints.
Methods In a cross-sectional design 145 women from 2 different industries f
illed out questionnaires about current musculoskeletal complaints, particip
ated in a clinical examination of the neck and upper extremities, and gave
a blood sample for the analysis of free testosterone in plasma. Individual
characteristics, psychosocial job factors, and stress reactions were evalua
ted by questionnaires. In a follow-up study a subgroup of 73 sewing machine
operators from the cross-sectional study was reexamined after 1 year.
Results The group of women with clinically verified neck or shoulder disord
ers had significantly lower plasma testosterone than the women with no diso
rders. Furthermore, the testosterone level showed a negative association wi
th age and a positive association with smoking and body mass index. Changes
in pain status or clinically diagnosed musculoskeletal disorders were not
associated with changes in testosterone levels. However, this finding may w
ell be due to a strong plant influence in that marked changes in testostero
ne levels were observed for 2 of the 3 participating plants.
Conclusions There is some indication of an association between musculoskele
tal disorders in the neck and shoulders and a low level of free plasma test
osterone. The study failed to clarify the associations found between change
s in testosterone and changes in musculoskeletal complaints over time.