Taking A Look At What The Research Says About Workplace Interventions And The Prevention of Upper Limb Musculoskeletal Disorders

I was recently reading the article titled “Effectiveness of workplace interventions in the prevention of upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders and symptoms: an update of the evidence” that was published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine journal in 2015 and thought I would discuss some of the key take home messages.

As osteopaths, physiotherapists, chiropractors, occupational therapists and exercise physiologists, we are often working directly with clients or within a workplace corporate setting to either prevent or manage musculoskeletal disorders.  Therefore it is important for us as health care practitioners working in the occupational health setting to understand what we can do to improve our current services provided so to help reduce the incidence of musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace.

Key take home messages from the article included:

  • The upper extremity and lower back are common causes of work related injuries.
  • The its believed the incidence of upper extremity and lower pain injuries are increasing and make up a significant portion of occupational diseases.
  • Upper extremity work related injuries are significant causes of disability costs and lost productivity in the workplace.
  • Research to date shows that there is no one way to deal with upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace and as a result of this, there is a lack of strong guidance for best practice.
  • There is strong evidence that resistance training exercise programmes, policy or practice can help manage and prevent upper extremity musculoskeletal disorder symptoms and disabilities.
  • There is moderate positive evidence to suggest that stretching programmes, vibration feedback on static mouse use and forearm supports can be useful for prevention and management of upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders.
  • There is currently not enough evidence from scientific literature with regards to implementing aerobic exercise programmes, alternative keyboards, rest breaks, postural exercise programs, work re design, different mouse devices, ergonomics training and assessment, modified work hours and a range of other workplace interventions to rom scientific literature to guide current policies and practices within a workplace.
  • There was no interventions evaluated that produced negative effects i.e. increased symptoms. 

My thoughts

Further research needs to be conducted with regards to interventions and strategies to help guide workplaces towards the prevention of upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace.

As allied health practitioners we are in a unique position to understand why and what type of upper extremity injuries can occur and whilst there is currently a lack of evidence to guide best practice, clinician experience combined with research can help us identify and implement strategies to deal with individuals with specific upper extremity complaints.

It is important that companies recognise and understand the risk management system and support OHS within the workplace setting and they understand that risk management is an ongoing process that allows for hazard identification, risk assessments, implementation of control measures and reviewing of this to determine if control measures are being effective. 

This blog post was written by osteopath Heath Williams at Principle Four Osteopathy.  At Principle Four Osteopath we provide a range of services, including osteopathy manual therapy consultations, functional movement screening, exercise prescription, strength and conditioning and rehabilitation.

Principle Four Osteopathy is one of Melbourne City CBD and Docklands leading osteopathy clinics.  Both clinics are equipped with training equipment so that we are able to get you actively involved and moving towards a better moving you.

Principle Four Osteopathy CBD clinic is located at 29 Somerset Place, Melbourne 3000.

Principle Four Osteopathy Docklands clinic is located at 717 Bourke St, Docklands, 3008.

Book an appointment online at www.principlefourosteopathy.com or call 03 9670 9290.