Effectiveness of educational materials to prevent occupational low back pain

Occup Med (Lond). 2016 Nov 1;66(8):623-629. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqw072.


Background: Low back pain (LBP) in association with occupation is well documented. A subpopulation of workers can be defined as 'non-heavy' manual workers with either light or sedentary roles who may be at risk of LBP due to insufficient physical activity. Educational materials are a potential intervention, which are cost-effective and easily targeted at this population.

Aims: To investigate the evidence for using information material among 'non-heavy' manual workers and the effect on their sickness absence.

Methods: A search investigating the effect of educational material on LBP in non-heavy manual workers. Electronic databases were searched and selected references were reviewed. Specific key terms were used including: 'worker', 'non-heavy manual', 'booklet', 'leaflet', 'advice', 'sickness', 'absenteeism', 'prevention' and 'low back pain'. Methodological quality was assessed by predefined criteria.

Results: Four studies were identified: one guideline review, one prospective study and two randomized controlled trials. Methodological quality was deemed moderate to high. There was insufficient evidence to show written education altered sickness absence. There was evidence that information given to workers can help change attitudes and beliefs about LBP.

Conclusions: Educational materials alone do not appear to reduce sickness absence for LBP in the 'non-heavy' manual working population. However, they can facilitate behavioural change and modify health beliefs and attitudes. Educational materials may be a useful medium to engage workers, provide information regarding practical modifications to their work environment and activities and potentially reduce psychological distress regarding ill-health at work.

Keywords: Education; low back pain; occupational health; prevention; systematic review..