Discussion paper

Scand J Work Environ Health Online-first -article    pdf

https://doi.org/10.5271/sjweh.4172 | Published online: 29 May 2024

What have we learned about risk assessment and interventions to prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders and support work participation?

by Kuijer PPFM, van der Wilk S, Evanoff B, Viikari-Juntura E, Coenen P

Objective The Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health (SJWEH) was established half a century ago. This paper provides an overview of research on musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) published over these 50 years. Three themes are described: risk assessment, interventions to prevent work-related MSD, and interventions to support work participation. Finally, implications for future research are highlighted.

Methods A systematic literature search was performed for all papers on MSD published in SJWEH. Each paper was coded on several criteria including research topic, type of MSD, risk factor(s), and number of citations. Findings were tabulated, and discussions within the author team defined the main results and future research directions.

Results The search resulted in 1056 papers, of which 474 were included. The most reported-on MSD was low-back pain (LBP, 18%) and the most reported-on work-related risk factors were physically demanding work (14%) and psychosocial factors (12%). Research has contributed to improving case definitions, refining work-related exposure criteria, and recognizing the varying importance of physical and psychosocial factors across different MSD. Research on the association between work-related risk factors and LBP continues to emerge. Effective interventions for prevention of MSD are characterised by sufficient exposure reduction, while supporting work participation requires integrating health care, with multidisciplinary actions directed at factors involving the worker, employer, and workplace.

Conclusion Research has provided valuable insights into risk assessment, interventions for preventing work-related MSD, and supporting work participation. Intervention studies remain warranted and new areas include adopting whole-system approaches to prevent work-related MSD and promoting the concept of musculoskeletal health.

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