Effective workplace interventions to prevent upper extremity disorders: a systematic review update

Reasons for the study

Upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) include painful conditions and injuries of the muscles, tendons, joints and nerves that affect the neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists and hands. In Canada, upper extremity MSDs and low-back pain are the leading causes of disabling work-related injuries. ‚ÄčThis systematic review updates a 2008 review of the role of occupational health and safety interventions in the prevention of upper extremity MSDs.


The systematic review was completed in 2016. The team found strong evidence that workplace-based resistance training programs can help prevent and manage upper extremity MSDs.

Moderate evidence was found that stretching exercise programs, workstation forearm supports and vibration feedback on mouse use can help prevent and manage upper extremity MSDs and symptoms. The team also found moderate evidence that electromagnetic (EMG) biofeedback, job stress management and office workstation adjustments on their own (i.e. with minimal worker involvement) have no effect on upper extremity MSDs.

Related scientific publications

Van Eerd D, Munhall C, Irvin E, Rempel D, Brewer S, van der Beek AJ, Dennerlein JT, Tullar J, Skivington K, Pinion C, Amick B. Effectiveness of workplace interventions in the prevention of upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders and symptoms: an update of the evidence. Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2016;73(1):62-70. doi:10.1136/oemed-2015-102992.

Related interviews and articles

Exercise to ease MSD pain. Health and Safety Report: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (Hamilton, ON). November 1, 2015. Available from: http://www.ccohs.ca/newsletters/hsreport/issues/2015/11/ezine.html - hsreport-partners
Preventing upper extremity MSDs: What the latest research says. At Work: Institute for Work & Health; No. 78, Fall 2014.

Related research summaries

What workplace programs help prevent upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders?. Sharing Best Evidence: Institute for Work & Health, October 2016.

Related presentations

Project status


Research team

Dwayne Van Eerd, Institute for Work & Health (PI)
Claire Munhall, Institute for Work & Health
Emma Irvin, Institute for Work & Health
Dave Rempel, University of California-San Francisco
Sandra Brewer, CB&I Inc.
Allard van der Beek, VU University Medical Center
Jack Dennerlein, Northeastern University
Jessica Tullar, University of Texas
Kathryn Skivington, Institute for Work & Health
Clint Pinion, CB&I Inc.
Ben Amick, Institute for Work & Health

Funded by

Ontario Ministry of Labour