Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 2011;37(5):383-393    pdf


The effectiveness of participatory ergonomics to prevent low-back and neck pain – results of a cluster randomized controlled trial

by Driessen MT, Proper KI, Anema JR, Knol DL, Bongers PM, van der Beek AJ

Objective The aim of this randomized controlled trial (RCT) was to investigate the effectiveness of the Stay@Work participatory ergonomics (PE) program to prevent low-back and neck pain.

Methods A total of 37 departments were randomly allocated to either the intervention (PE) or control group (no PE). During a six-hour meeting, working groups followed the PE steps and composed and prioritized ergonomic measures aimed at preventing low-back and neck pain. Subsequently, working groups were requested to implement the ergonomic measures in the departments. The primary outcomes were low-back and neck pain prevalence and secondary outcomes were pain intensity and duration. Data were collected by questionnaires at baseline, and after 3-, 6-, 9-, and 12-months follow-up. Additionally, the course of low-back and neck pain (transitions from no symptoms to symptoms and from symptoms to no symptoms) was modeled.

Results The randomization procedure resulted in 19 intervention departments (N=1472 workers) and 18 control departments (N=1575 workers). After 12 months, the intervention was not more effective than the control group in reducing the prevalence of low-back and neck pain or reducing pain intensity and duration. PE did not increase the probability of preventing low-back pain [odds ratio (OR) 1.23, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 0.97–1.57) or neck pain (OR 1.01, 95% CI 0.74–1.40). However, PE increased the probability of recovering from low-back pain (OR 1.41, 95% CI 1.01–1.96), but not from neck pain (OR 0.95, 95% CI 0.72–1.26).

Conclusion PE neither reduced low-back and neck pain prevalence nor pain intensity and duration nor was it effective in the prevention of low-back and neck pain or the recovery from neck pain. However, PE was more effective in the recovery from low-back pain.

This article refers to the following text of the Journal: 2002;28(1):18-24