On-the-job resistance training helps prevent musculoskeletal disorders: Review

Implementing workplace-based resistance training can help prevent musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) of the upper extremity, according to a review by the Institute for Work and Health (IWH). 
The neck, shoulder, arm, elbow, wrist and hand are most commonly affected by the disorder and it accounts for 40 to 60 per cent of work-related injury claims.

The review, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, also found moderate evidence that stretching exercise programs such as yoga, workstation forearm supports and vibration feedback on computer mouse use have a positive effect on preventing and managing MSDs of the upper extremity.

“Employers should consider implementing these prevention measures if they’re suitable to the workplace,” said Dwayne Van Eerd, an associate scientist at IWH and co-leadof the systematic review. “Suitability to the workplace is important, because evidence-based practice should not only incorporate research findings such asthese, but also incorporate the knowledge and experience of practitioners andend-users such as occupational health and safety professionals and workers.”

Musculoskeletal disorders are a group of painful disorders affecting muscles, tendons, joints and nerves. They can affect all body parts, although the neck, back, arm, hand and shoulders are the most likely.

The findings suggest resistance training to be the most effective in helping prevent and manage the disorder. This type of training refers to exercises that cause the muscles to contract against an external resistance such as dumbbells, rubber exercise tubing, and use of own body weight.

“While the studies on the effectiveness of resistance programs varied in the level of detail provided, according to those that supplied specifics, the resistance programs ranged from 20 minutes to one hour per week, spread across one or multiple days per week, with and without the involvement of a physiotherapist,” said Emma Irvin, co-lead of the study and head of IWH review.

The systematic review team made these recommendations:

• Implementing a workplace-based resistance training exercise program can help prevent and manage upper extremity musculoskeletal symptoms and disorders.?
• Workplaces should consider implementing stretching exercise programs (including yoga), workstation forearm supports and vibration feedback on mouse use, if applicable to the work context.?
• Workplaces should consider seeking alternatives to job stress management, electromagnetic biofeedback and work station adjustments alone (such as with minimal worker involvement).

The review also found moderate evidence that programs like job stress management, electromagnetic biofeedback, and workstation adjustments alone have no effect on disease prevention or management.