Background: Although leisure-time physical activity is important for health, adherence to regular exercise is challenging for many adults. The workplace may provide an optimal setting to reach a large proportion of the adult population needing regular physical exercise. This study evaluates the effect of implementing strength training at the workplace on non-specific neck and shoulder pain among industrial workers.
Methods: Cluster-randomized controlled trial involving 537 adults from occupations with high prevalence of neck and shoulder pain (industrial production units). Participants were randomized to 20 weeks of high-intensity strength training for the neck and shoulders three times a week (n = 282) or a control group receiving advice to stay physically active (n = 255). The strength training program followed principles of progressive overload and periodization. The primary outcome was changes in self-reported neck and shoulder pain intensity (scale 0-9).
Results: 85% of the participants followed the strength training program on a weekly basis. In the training group compared with the control group, neck pain intensity decreased significantly (-0.6, 95% CI -1.0 to -0.1) and shoulder pain intensity tended to decrease (-0.2, 95% CI -0.5 to 0.1, P = 0.07). For pain-cases at baseline (pain intensity > = 3) the odds ratio - in the training group compared with the control group--for being a non-case at follow-up (pain intensity < 3) was 2.0 (95% CI 1.0 to 4.2) for the neck and 3.9 (95% CI 1.7 to 9.4) for the shoulders.
Conclusion: High-intensity strength training relying on principles of progressive overload can be successfully implemented at industrial workplaces, and results in significant reductions of neck and shoulder pain.
Trial registration: NCT01071980.