By Institute for Work and Health
Allowing workers to do resistance training on the job is a recommended way for workplaces to help prevent and manage upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). That’s one of the key findings coming out of a recent systematic review conducted by an Institute for Work & Health (IWH) team.
By Institute for Work and Health
The team emphasized that strong research evidence such as this is only
part of evidence-based practice, which also incorporates the knowledge
and experience of practitioners and end users.
“We are not saying
that workplaces should rush to implement resistance training,” said
Emma Irvin, head of IWH’s systematic review program and one of the lead
investigators of this project. “However, we are suggesting that OHS
(occupational health and safety) practitioners consider it in their
arsenal of prevention practices when it comes to upper extremity MSDs.”
training refers to exercises that cause the muscles to contract against
an external resistance (e.g. dumbbells, rubber exercise tubing, own
body weight) with the expectation of increases in muscle strength, tone,
mass and/or endurance.
“The studies on the effectiveness of
resistance programs that we included in our review varied in the level
of detail provided,” said Irvin. “In 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.”
Done in partnership with stakeholders,
including Ontario’s health and safety associations, this systematic
review updates a 2008 review conducted by IWH that focused on the
effectiveness of workplace intervention programs on preventing MSDs in
the arm, shoulder and hand, in both office and non-office settings.
to the 2008 review, we found a higher proportion of high quality
studies in the literature,” said Irvin. “That higher proportion covered
29 different intervention categories, up from 19 in the last review, and
allowed us to make practical recommendations on a number of them.”
With respect to preventing and managing upper extremity MSDs, the 2014 review found:
• strong evidence of a positive effect for workplace-based resistance exercise training programs;
moderate evidence of a positive effect for stretching exercise
programs (including yoga), workstation forearm supports and vibration
feedback on mouse use with computers;
• moderate evidence of no
effect for job stress management training, electromyographic (EMG)
biofeedback (sensor pads that measure activity level in muscles), and
workstation adjustments with minimal worker involvement.
finding about doing workstation adjustments alone not being effective is
consistent across a number of our reviews,” said Irvin. “In speaking
with stakeholders, they concurred that workstation adjustments alone,
without engaging the worker, cannot be expected to have a strong impact
on upper extremity MSDs.”
The findings led the review team, in
consultation with stakeholders, to craft a few practical messages for
those involved in MSD prevention in workplaces.
reviews set out to review and synthesize all that the research
literature to date has to say on a given question. Designed to be
replicable, they’re carried out according to clear and transparent
methods, starting with a research question that states key parameters
from the outset.
To conduct this systematic review, the team
searched six databases and combed through almost 10,000 studies to
filter the ones that met inclusion criteria for relevance and quality.
It ended up synthesizing 61 studies, including the studies from the 2008
review, and weighing the quality of the relevant studies along 18
“One of the ‘good news’ messages coming out of this review is that well-designed studies are possible,” said Irvin.