Interventions in health-care settings to protect musculoskeletal health: a systematic review

Reasons for the study

Health-care workers face a high risk of developing injuries to their muscles, tendons or other soft-tissues, including back pain. These injuries are also known as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Activities such as lifting and handling patients are one of the main causes of MSDs in health-care workers. Many prevention initiatives – such as using mechanical patient lifts, physical exercise programs or education programs – have been used to try to prevent MSDs from occurring in health-care workers. However, little is known about the effectiveness of these programs. This systematic review summarized the existing scientific literature on the effectiveness of MSD prevention programs for health-care workers.


This systematic review, completed in 2007, found a moderate level of evidence for the effect of OHS interventions on musculoskeletal health status in health-care settings. Some examples of positive effects reported in different studies were: reductions in injury rates requiring time off work or improvements in self-reported low-back pain. There was moderate evidence that two specific programs had a positive effect: patient handling with multiple components and exercise training.

Related research summaries

Prevention programs for health-care workers . Sharing Best Evidence: Institute for Work & Health, January 2007.

Related scientific publications

Tullar JM, Brewer S, Amick B, Irvin E, Mahood Q, Pompeii LA, Wang A, Van Eerd D, Gimeno D, Evanoff B. Occupational safety and health interventions to reduce musculoskeletal symptoms in the health care sector. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation. 2010;20(2):199-219. doi:10.1007/s10926-010-9231-y.
Amick B, Tullar J, Brewer S, Irvin E, Mahood Q, Pompeii L, Wang A, Van Eerd D, Gimeno D, Evanoff B. Interventions in health-care settings to protect musculoskeletal health: a systematic review. Institute for Work & Health; 2006.

Project status


Research team

Ben Amick, Institute for Work & Health (PI)
Jessica Tullar, University of Texas
Shelley Brewer, University of Texas
Emma Irvin, Institute for Work & Health
Quenby Mahood, Institute for Work & Health
Lisa Pompeii, University of Texas
Anna Wang, Institute for Work & Health
Dwayne Van Eerd, Institute for Work & Health
David Gimeno, University College London
Bradley Evanoff, Washington University at St. Louis

Funded by

Workplace Safety and Insurance Board of Ontario