Scand J Work Environ Health 2023;49(1):5-22    pdf full text | Published online: 16 Nov 2022, Issue date: 01 Jan 2023

Interventions for preventing back pain among office workers – a systematic review and network meta-analysis

by Eisele-Metzger A, Schoser DS, Klein MD, Grummich K, Schwarzer G, Schwingshackl L, Hermann R, Biallas B, Wilke C, Meerpohl JJ, Braun C

Objective Back pain is common in the working population. This systematic review with network meta-analysis (NMA) aimed to compare the effects of interventions for preventing back pain among office workers.

Methods We searched eight databases and additional sources up to March 2021. We included randomized controlled trials (RCT) and cluster RCT focusing on office workers, comparing work-related interventions aimed at preventing back pain (defined as pain in any part of the spine) to a control condition and assessing back pain and/or work absence. Further outcomes considered were adverse events and participants’ satisfaction. We performed both frequentist and component NMA. Risk of bias (RoB) was evaluated using RoB 2 and certainty of the evidence (CoE) was assessed using GRADE.

Results We screened 9809 records and included 24 studies with a total of 7080 participants. RoB was assessed as “some concerns” or “high” for all studies and outcomes. Included studies investigated multicomponent interventions, ergonomics, physical activity, education, behavioral interventions and no/minimal interventions. Effects were mostly not statistically significant and based on low/very low CoE. Physical activity probably reduces days of work absence slightly [mean difference (MD) -1.10, 95% confidence interval (CI) -2.07– -0.13], and combining physical activity and ergonomics may reduce back pain intensity (standardized MD -0.41, 95% CI -0.80– -0.02) when compared to no/minimal intervention. A large proportion of participants were satisfied with the interventions, adverse events were rarely assessed.

Conclusions We observed mostly minor effects of interventions on back pain and work absence among office workers. The practical relevance of these effects is questionable.

This article refers to the following texts of the Journal: 2019;45(1):42-52  2010;36(1):42-53  2008;34(1):55-65  1999;25(3):255-263
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