Psychosocial effects of workplace physical exercise among workers with chronic pain: Randomized controlled trial

Medicine (Baltimore). 2017 Jan;96(1):e5709. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000005709.


While workplace physical exercise can help manage musculoskeletal disorders, less is known about psychosocial effects of such interventions. This aim of this study was to investigate the effect of workplace physical exercise on psychosocial factors among workers with chronic musculoskeletal pain.The trial design was a 2-armed parallel-group randomized controlled trial with allocation concealment. A total of 66 slaughterhouse workers (51 men and 15 women, mean age 45 years [standard deviation (SD) 10]) with upper limb chronic musculoskeletal pain were randomly allocated to group-based strength training (physical exercise group) or individual ergonomic training and education (reference group) for 10 weeks. Social climate was assessed with the General Nordic Questionnaire for Psychological and Social Factors at Work, and vitality and mental health were assessed with the 36-item Short Form Health Survey. All scales were converted to 0 to 100 (higher scores are better). Between-group differences from baseline to follow-up were determined using linear mixed models adjusted for workplace, age, gender, and baseline values of the outcome.Mean baseline scores of social climate, mental health, and vitality were 52.2 (SD 14.9), 79.5 (SD 13.7), and 53.9 (SD 19.7), respectively. Complete baseline and follow-up data were obtained from 30 and 31 from the physical exercise and reference groups, respectively. The between-group differences from baseline to follow-up between physical exercise and reference were 7.6 (95% CI 0.3 to 14.9), -2.3 (95% CI -10.3 to 5.8), and 10.1 (95% CI 0.6 to 19.5) for social climate, mental health, and vitality, respectively. For social climate and vitality, this corresponded to moderate effect sizes (Cohen d = 0.51 for both) in favor of physical exercise. There were no reported adverse events.In conclusion, workplace physical exercise performed together with colleagues improves social climate and vitality among workers with chronic musculoskeletal pain. Mental health remained unchanged.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Abattoirs*
  • Adult
  • Chronic Pain / therapy
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / therapy
  • Occupational Health
  • Resistance Training
  • Social Capital
  • Social Conditions
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Upper Extremity
  • Workplace / psychology*