Systematic review of the role of occupational health and safety interventions in the prevention of upper extremity musculoskeletal symptoms, signs, disorders, injuries, claims and lost time

Report cover

Published: December 2008

by: Amick B, Kennedy-Yee CA, Dennerlein JT, Brewer S, Catli S, Williams R, Serra C, Gerr F, Irvin E, Mahood Q, Franzblau A, Van Eerd D, Evanoff B, Rempel D

Workers in many industries and sectors experience pain and symptoms of numbness and tingling in the neck, shoulder, arm, wrist and/or hand. Such symptoms may be warning signs of current or impending musculoskeletal disorders, such as peripheral nerve entrapments (e.g. carpal tunnel syndrome, ulnar tunnel syndrome), peripheral enthesopathies (e.g. shoulder tendinitis, lateral epicondylitis, hand-wrist tendinitis) and many other non-specific musculoskeletal pain disorders.

Collectively, these conditions are often referred to as upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Workers may also experience more acute traumatic injuries of their upper extremity, such as crushed fingers, tendon lacerations and burns. Together, upper extremity MSDs and traumatic injuries are a large burden to society and to workplaces because of lost productivity, reduced performance and lost-time claims among affected workers.

Despite the frequency, high costs and range of MSD prevention approaches, little is known about the most effective occupational health and safety interventions. The Institute for Work & Health conducted a systematic review to find workplace-based interventions specific to preventing upper extremity MSDs and injuries across a range of sectors. The finding are outlined in this report. (Note that this systematic review was updated in 2016.)