Exercise proves effective in a systematic review of work-related complaints of the arm, neck, or shoulder

J Clin Epidemiol. 2007 Feb;60(2):110-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2006.05.006. Epub 2006 Sep 7.


Objective: Interventions such as physiotherapy and ergonomic adjustments play a major role in the treatment of most work-related complaints of the arm, neck, and/or shoulder (CANS). We evaluated whether conservative interventions have a significant impact on outcomes for work-related CANS.

Study design and setting: A systematic review was conducted. Only (randomized) trials studying interventions for patients suffering from work-related CANS were included. Interventions may include exercises, relaxation, physical applications, and workplace adjustments. Two authors independently selected the trials, assessed methodological quality, and extracted data.

Results: We included 26 studies (in total 2,376 patients); 23 studies included patients with chronic nonspecific complaints. Over 30 interventions were evaluated and 7 main subgroups of interventions could be determined, of which the subgroup "exercises" was the largest one. Overall, the quality of the studies appeared to be poor.

Conclusion: There is limited evidence for the effectiveness of exercises when compared to massage, adding breaks during computer work, massage as add-on treatment to manual therapy, manual therapy as add-on treatment to exercises, and some keyboards in people with carpal tunnel syndrome when compared to other keyboards or placebo. For other interventions no clear effectiveness could be demonstrated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Arm
  • Ergonomics
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Neck
  • Neuromuscular Diseases / therapy*
  • Occupational Diseases / therapy*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Shoulder
  • Treatment Outcome