This study was an 8-month controlled trial to evaluate the effectiveness of a workplace educational and physical programme in reducing headache and neck and shoulder pain. Central registry office employees (n = 192; study group) and 192 peripheral registry office and central tax office employees (controls) in the city of Turin, Italy were given diaries for the daily recording of pain episodes. After 2 months, the study group only began the educational and physical programme. The primary end-point was the change in frequency of headache and neck and shoulder pain expressed as the number of days per month with pain, and as the proportion of subjects with a >or= 50% reduction of frequency (responder rate). The number of days of analgesic drug consumption was also recorded. Diaries completed for the whole 8 months were available for 169 subjects in the study group and 175 controls. The baseline frequency of headache (days per month) was 5.87 and 6.30 in the study group and in controls; frequency of neck and shoulder pain was 7.12 and 7.79, respectively. Mean treatment effects [days per month, 95% confidence interval (CI)] on comparing the last 2 months vs. baseline were: headache frequency -2.45 (-3.48, -1.43); frequency of neck pain -2.62 (-4.09, -1.16); responder rates (odds ratio, 95% CI) 5.51 (2.75, 11) for headache, 3.10 (1.65, 5.81) for neck and shoulder pain, and 3.08 (1.06, 8.90) for days with analgesic drug consumption. The study suggests that an educational and physical programme reduces headache and neck and shoulder pain in a working community.