Ergonomic and physiotherapeutic interventions for treating upper extremity work related disorders in adults.

A. P. Verhagen, S. M. Bierma-Zeinstra, A. Feleus, C. Karels, S. Dahaghin, L. Burdorf, H. C. de Vet, B. W. Koes

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34 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Conservative interventions such as physiotherapy and ergonomic adjustments play a major part in the treatment of most work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMD). OBJECTIVES: The objective of this systematic review is to determine whether conservative interventions have a significant impact on short and long-term outcomes for upper extremity WRMD in adults. SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Cochrane Musculoskeletal Injuries Group specialised register (January 2002) and Cochrane Rehabilitation and Related Therapies Field specialised register (January 2002), the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register (The Cochrane Library Issue 3, 2001), PubMed (1966 to November 2001), EMBASE (1988 to November 2001), and CINAHL (1982 to November 2001). We also searched the Physiotherapy Index (1988 to November 2001) and reference lists of articles. No language restrictions were applied. SELECTION CRITERIA: Only randomised controlled trials and concurrent controlled trials studying conservative interventions for adults suffering from upper extremity WRMD were included. Conservative interventions may include exercises, relaxation, physical applications, biofeedback, myofeedback and work place adjustments. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two reviewers independently selected the trials from the search yield and assessed the clinical relevance and methodological quality using the Delphi list. In the event of clinical heterogeneity or lack of data we used a rating system to assess levels of evidence. MAIN RESULTS: We included 15 trials involving 925 people. Twelve trials included people with chronic non-specific neck or shoulder complaints, or non-specific upper extremity disorders. Over 20 interventions were evaluated; seven main subgroups of interventions could be determined: exercises, manual therapy, massage, ergonomics, multidisciplinary treatment, energised splint and individual treatment versus group therapy. Overall, the quality of the studies appeared to be poor. In 10 studies a form of exercise was evaluated, and there is limited evidence about the effectiveness of exercises only when compared to no treatment. Concerning manual therapy (1 study), massage (4 studies), multidisciplinary treatment (1 study) and energised splint (1 study) no conclusions can be drawn. Limited evidence is found concerning the effectiveness of specific keyboards for patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. REVIEWER'S CONCLUSIONS: This review shows limited evidence for the effectiveness of keyboards with an alternative force-displacement of the keys or an alternative geometry, and limited evidence for the effectiveness of individual exercises. The benefit of expensive ergonomic interventions (such as new chairs, new desks etc) in the workplace is not clearly demonstrated.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCochrane database of systematic reviews (Online)
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2004

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