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

Related scientific publications

Project status

Completed 2006

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