Workplace-Based Rehabilitation of Upper Limb Conditions: A Systematic Review

J Occup Rehabil. 2019 Mar;29(1):175-193. doi: 10.1007/s10926-018-9777-7.


Purpose The objective of this systematic review was to identify, collate and analyse the current available evidence on the effectiveness of workplace-based rehabilitative interventions in workers with upper limb conditions on work performance, pain, absenteeism, productivity and other outcomes. Methods We searched Medline, Cochrane Library, Scopus, Web of Science, Academic Search Premier, Africa-Wide Information, CINAHL, OTSeeker and PEDro with search terms in four broad areas: upper limb, intervention, workplace and clinical trial (no date limits). Studies including neck pain only or musculoskeletal pain in other areas were not included. Results Initial search located 1071 articles, of which 80 were full text reviewed. Twenty-eight articles were included, reporting on various outcomes relating to a total of seventeen studies. Nine studies were of high methodological quality, seven of medium quality, and one of low quality. Studies were sorted into intervention categories: Ergonomic controls (n = 3), ergonomic training and workstation adjustments (n = 4), exercise and resistance training (n = 6), clinic-based versus workplace-based work hardening (n = 1), nurse case manager training (n = 1), physiotherapy versus Feldenkrais (n = 1), and ambulant myofeedback training (n = 1). The largest body of evidence supported workplace exercise programs, with positive effects for ergonomic training and workstation adjustments, and mixed effects for ergonomic controls. Ambulant myofeedback training had no effect. The remaining three categories had positive effects in the single study on each intervention. Conclusion While there is substantial evidence for workplace exercise programs, other workplace-based interventions require further high quality research. Systematic review registration PROSPERO CRD42017059708.

Keywords: Occupational health; Upper extremity; Workplace rehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ergonomics / methods
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / rehabilitation*
  • Occupational Injuries / rehabilitation*
  • Occupational Therapy / methods
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Upper Extremity / injuries