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Chiropractic Research Review

Workplace Ergonomics Influence Musculoskeletal Pain

With a large percentage of the U.S. work force utilizing computers on the job and/or involved in various repetitive tasks on a daily basis, the incidence of repetitive stress and strain injuries is high.

Research suggests that musculoskeletal pain or functional loss necessitate time away from work for nearly 1 million people annually; little evidence exists as to whether office ergonomic interventions significantly reduce musculoskeletal injury or corresponding time off work.

This 12-month follow-up study involving employees from a state department of revenue services examined the influence of an adjustable chair and an office ergonomic training workshop on musculoskeletal symptom exacerbation during the workday and pain levels throughout the day. Study participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups. Each subject assigned to group 1 received a chair with adjustable armrests (height, width and pivot); adjustable seat height and depth; a flexible back support; and a gliding mechanism designed to allow the seat to glide forward as the user reclined. Subjects assigned to this group also received a one-time, 90-minute workshop on office ergonomic principles and post-intervention e-mail messages at months one, three and five to reinforce the information provided in the workshop. Group 2 participants received workshop training only, and those assigned to group 3 served as controls, receiving ergonomic training only at the end of the study.

All study participants completed a short daily symptom survey two months and one month pre-intervention and two, six and 12 months post-intervention, designed to assess pain on a 0-10 scale for each of nine body areas (neck, shoulders, upper back, elbows, lower arms/wrists/hands, lower back, buttocks/thighs, knees, and lower legs/ankles/feet). Surveys were conducted at each follow-up point at the beginning, middle and end of the workday for five days during a workweek.

Results: Workers assigned to the chair plus training group reported reduced pain and discomfort during the workday compared to those in the training-only group or controls; the training-only group showed no significant improvements in pain severity during the workday compared to the control group. Summarily, subjects who received training in addition to easy-to-use ergonomic furniture demonstrated the greatest benefits.

Amick III BC, Robertson MM, DeRango K, et al. Effect of office ergonomics intervention on reducing musculoskeletal symptoms. Spine, Dec. 15, 2003;28(24):2706-2711.

Chiropractic Research Review

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