Effectiveness of workplace interventions in the prevention of upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders (UEMSD) and symptoms: an update of evidence

Work related musculoskeletal disorders are a constellation of painful disorders of muscles, tendons, joints and nerves that can occur in the body, however, neck, back and upper limb injuries are the most common.


Upper extremity injuries are becoming more prevalent in both the first world and in developing nations where technology advances are occurring. Upper extremity disorders are significant causes of lost productivity and disability claims costs in many economic sectors world-wide.


In response to this burgeoning condition focused prevention campaigns are necessary.


In order to determine best preventative measures to avoid upper extremity disorders, a recent review of the literature has been able to determine best practise outcomes.


There is strong evidence to indicate that resistance exercise training programs using dumbbells and kettle bells have a positive effect on reducing onset of UEMSD.
• Message: Implementing a work based resistance training program can help prevent and manage UEMSD and symptoms.


There is moderate evidence indicating the use of forearm supports to work with a computer key board and also use of a vibrating mouse that provides feed back to the hand. Stretching programs also had a moderate level of evidence to indicate a role to manage UEMSD’s.
• Message: Consideration for implementing these strategies is important depending on work context.


Further interventions of EMG feedback, stress management and work station set up were also reviewed and were found to have no increased effect on UEMSD’s when carried out in isolation.  These interventions did not have a negative effect on symptoms or lost time however isolated use of these interventions showed no positive gains.
• Message: Use of these interventions should be used in conjunction with other active management strategies rather than in isolation if positive outcomes are expected in a reduction in UEMSD symptoms.


There are many more interventions that are used however there were limited studies demonstrating treatment effects.


When managing or trying to prevent UEMSD’s best practice management indicates that active rather than passive treatment is most effective depending on the context of the work.


Workplace Physiotherapy are highly experienced in the development of staff and task specific injury prevention programs.


Ref: Van Eerd D,Munhall C,Irwin E, Rempel D, van der Beek AJ, Dennerlein JT, Tullar J, Skivington K, Pinion C Amick B Occup Environ Med doi:10.1136/oemed-2015-102992


The comments above are the implicit advice of Workplace Physiotherapy. The views expressed are based on current evidence-based research and accepted best practice approaches. Unless otherwise stated, these comments are not the view of SIRA/ icare NSW or any other professional body. No reproduction or forwarding of this advice is permitted without the consent of the author.


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