Design of a randomized controlled trial on the effect on return to work with coaching plus light therapy and pulsed electromagnetic field therapy for workers with work-related chronic stress

BMC Public Health. 2016 Jul 19;16:597. doi: 10.1186/s12889-016-3276-6.


Background: Work-related chronic stress is a common problem among workers. The core complaint is that the employee feels exhausted, which has an effect on the well-being and functioning of the employee, and an impact on the employer and society. The employee's absence is costly due to lost productivity and medical expenses. The usual form of care for work-related chronic stress is coaching, using a cognitive-behavioural approach whose primary aim is to reduce symptoms and improve functioning. Light therapy and pulsed electromagnetic field therapy are used for the treatment of several mental and physical disorders. The objective of this study is to determine whether coaching combined with light therapy plus pulsed electromagnetic field therapy is an effective treatment for reducing absenteeism, fatigue and stress, and improving quality of life compared to coaching alone.

Methods/design: The randomized placebo-controlled trial consists of three arms. The population consists of 90 participants with work-related chronic stress complaints. The research groups are: (i) intervention group; (ii) placebo group; and (iii) control group. Participants in the intervention group will be treated with light therapy/pulsed electromagnetic field therapy for 12 weeks, twice a week for 40 min, and coaching (once a fortnight for 50 min). The placebo group receives the same treatment but with the light and pulsed electromagnetic field switched to placebo settings. The control group receives only coaching for 12 weeks, a course of six sessions, once a fortnight for 50 min. The primary outcome is the level of return to work. Secondary outcomes are fatigue, stress and quality of life. Outcomes will be measured at baseline, 6 weeks, 12 and 24 weeks after start of treatment.

Discussion: This study will provide information about the effectiveness of coaching and light therapy plus pulsed electromagnetic field therapy on return to work, and secondly on fatigue, stress and quality of life in people with work-related chronic stress.

Trial registration: NTR4794 , registration date 18-sept-2014.

Keywords: Burnout; Fatigue; Light therapy; Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (PEMF); Quality of life; Stress; Work participation; Work-related chronic stress.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Burnout, Professional / prevention & control
  • Burnout, Professional / therapy
  • Chronic Disease / therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Electromagnetic Fields*
  • Fatigue / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mentoring*
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Phototherapy*
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Return to Work / psychology*
  • Return to Work / statistics & numerical data
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult

Associated data

  • NTR/NTR4794