The development of evidence on how to effectively treat work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) is, in some respects, rather disappointing, and particularly so for nonspecific disorders such as pain in the neck or low back.
A reasonable assumption is that individual treatment needs differ substantially in nonspecific pain disorders due to different underlying mechanisms, and that a conventional single treatment approach will, therefore, have limited success. Thus, there is a need for research aiming at developing valid decision models for tailoring the treatment to the individual, in particular for nonspecific neck-shoulder pain.
A similar situation applies to early identification of individuals at risk of developing MSD. Even though work-related nonspecific MSD can be characterized to some extent, as revealed by cross-sectional studies, there is still a paucity of knowledge on whether typical signs and functional impairments revealed by tests and clinical assessments represent causes or effects of the disorder.
This can only be disentangled in longitudinal cohort studies looking at incident cases of the disorder. A longitudinal research design also allows investigations into biochemical processes of importance for early development of MSD, using methods like metabolomics and proteomics. These two research directions constitute the focus of program E, which has the overall aim to contribute to an effective prevention of pain in working life.