Stretching to reduce work-related musculoskeletal disorders: a systematic review

J Rehabil Med. 2008 May;40(5):321-8. doi: 10.2340/16501977-0204.


Objective: This article reviewed the literature to clarify the physiological effects and benefits of, and misconceptions about, stretches used to reduce musculoskeletal disorders.

Methods: Nine databases were reviewed to identify studies exploring the effectiveness of stretching to prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Included studies were reviewed and their methodological quality was assessed using the PEDro scale.

Results: The physiological effects of stretches may contribute to reducing discomfort and pain. However, if other measures are not in place to remediate their causes, stretches may suppress awareness of risks, resulting in more debilitating injuries. If inadequately performed, stretches may also cause or aggravate injuries. Careful analysis and stretching program design are required before implementing stretches. Seven studies evaluating the effectiveness of stretching to prevent musculoskeletal disorders in different occupations were identified and reviewed.

Conclusion: The studies provided mixed findings, but demonstrated some beneficial effect of stretching in preventing work-related musculoskeletal disorders. However, due to the relatively low methodological quality of the studies available in the literature, future studies are necessary for a definite response. Future studies should minimize threats to internal and external validity, have control groups, use appropriate follow-up periods, and present a more detailed description of the interventions and worker population.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / prevention & control
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / rehabilitation
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / therapy*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle Stretching Exercises* / methods
  • Muscle Stretching Exercises* / standards
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / prevention & control
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / rehabilitation
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / therapy*
  • Occupational Diseases / prevention & control
  • Occupational Diseases / rehabilitation
  • Occupational Diseases / therapy*
  • Pain / prevention & control
  • Pain / rehabilitation
  • Pain Management
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Reminder Systems
  • Software
  • Treatment Outcome