Effectiveness of a questionnaire based intervention programme on the prevalence of arm, shoulder and neck symptoms, risk factors and sick leave in computer workers: a cluster randomised controlled trial in an occupational setting

BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2010 May 27:11:99. doi: 10.1186/1471-2474-11-99.


Background: Arm, shoulder and neck symptoms are very prevalent among computer workers. In an attempt to reduce these symptoms, a large occupational health service in the Netherlands developed a preventive programme on exposure to risk factors, prevalence of arm, shoulder and neck symptoms, and sick leave in computer workers. The purpose of this study was to assess the effectiveness of this intervention programme.

Methods: The study was a randomised controlled trial. The participants were assigned to either the intervention group or the usual care group by means of cluster randomisation. At baseline and after 12 months of follow-up, the participants completed the RSI QuickScan questionnaire on exposure to the risk factors and on the prevalence of arm, shoulder and neck symptoms. A tailor-made intervention programme was proposed to participants with a high risk profile at baseline. Examples of implemented interventions are an individual workstation check, a visit to the occupational health physician and an education programme on the prevention of arm, shoulder and neck symptoms. The primary outcome measure was the prevalence of arm, shoulder and neck symptoms. Secondary outcome measures were the scores on risk factors for arm, shoulder and neck symptoms and the number of days of sick leave. Sick leave data was obtained from the companies. Multilevel analyses were used to test the effectiveness.

Results: Of the 1,673 persons invited to participate in the study, 1,183 persons (71%) completed the baseline questionnaire and 741 persons participated at baseline as well as at 12-month follow-up. At 12-month follow-up, the intervention group showed a significant positive change (OR = 0.48) in receiving information on healthy computer use, as well as a significant positive change regarding risk indicators for work posture and movement, compared to the usual care group. There were no significant differences in changes in the prevalence of arm, shoulder and neck symptoms or sick leave between the intervention and usual care group.

Conclusions: The effects of the RSI QuickScan intervention programme were small, possibly as a result of difficulties with the implementation process of the proposed interventions. However, some significant positive effects were found as to an increase in receiving education and a decrease in exposure to adverse postures and movements. With regard to symptoms and sick leave, only small and non-significant effects were found.

Trial registration: Netherlands National Trial Register NTR1117.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arm Injuries / epidemiology
  • Arm Injuries / physiopathology
  • Arm Injuries / prevention & control
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Computers / standards*
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / physiopathology
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Joint Diseases / epidemiology
  • Joint Diseases / physiopathology
  • Joint Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / physiopathology
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Netherlands
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / physiopathology
  • Occupational Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Shoulder Pain / epidemiology
  • Shoulder Pain / physiopathology
  • Shoulder Pain / prevention & control
  • Sick Leave / statistics & numerical data
  • Spondylosis / epidemiology
  • Spondylosis / physiopathology
  • Spondylosis / prevention & control
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / standards*
  • Treatment Outcome