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1.  Effect of individually tailored biopsychosocial workplace interventions on chronic musculoskeletal pain, stress and work ability among laboratory technicians: randomized controlled trial protocol 
Among laboratory technicians, the prevalence of neck and shoulder pain is widespread possibly due to typical daily work tasks such as pipetting, preparing vial samples for analysis, and data processing on a computer including mouse work - all tasks that require precision in motor control and may result in extended periods of time spent in static positions.
In populations characterized by intense chronic musculoskeletal pain and diagnosed conditions in conjunction with psycho-physiological symptoms such as stress-related pain and soreness and other disabling conditions, multifactorial approaches applying a combination of individually tailored physical and cognitive strategies targeting the areas most needed, may be an effective solution to the physical and mental health challenges.
The aim of this study is therefore to investigate the effect of an individually tailored biopsychosocial intervention strategy on musculoskeletal pain, stress and work disability in lab technicians with a history of musculoskeletal pain at a single worksite in Denmark.
In this single-blind two-armed parallel-group randomized controlled trial with allocation concealment, participants receive either an individualized multifactorial intervention or “usual care” for 10 weeks at the worksite. Inclusion criteria: 1) female laboratory technician (18-67 years of age) and 2) Pain intensity ≥ 3 (0-10 Visual Analogue Scale) lasting ≥3 months with a frequency of ≥ 3 days per week in one or more of the following regions: i) upper back i) low back iii) neck, iv) shoulder, v) elbow and/or vi) hand. Exclusion criteria: 1) life-threatening disease and 2) pregnancy. Stress, as measured by Cohen´s perceived stress questionnaire is not an inclusion criteria, thus participants can participate regardless of their stress level.
We will implement an individualized intervention addressing biopsychosocial elements of musculoskeletal pain with the following components; i) increasing physical capacity through strength- and motor control training; ii) lowering or preventing development of stress through mindfulness practice and learning de-catastrophizing pain management strategies through cognitive training.
The primary outcome at 10-week follow-up is the between-group difference in intensity of perceived musculoskeletal pain during the last week (average value of back, neck, shoulder, elbow and hand) assessed by questionnaire (modified visual analogue scale 0-10).
This study will provide experimental evidence to guide workplace initiatives designed towards reducing chronic musculoskeletal pain and stress.
Trial registration number NCT02047669.
PMCID: PMC4325961  PMID: 25519844
Musculoskeletal disorders; Occupational health and performance; Neck pain; Shoulder pain; Elbow pain; Hand pain; Wrist pain; Repetitive work; Stress; Work ability
2.  Acute Effect of Topical Menthol on Chronic Pain in Slaughterhouse Workers with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Triple-Blind, Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial 
Topical menthol gels are classified “topical analgesics” and are claimed to relieve minor aches and pains of the musculoskeletal system. In this study we investigate the acute effect of topical menthol on carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). We screened 645 slaughterhouse workers and recruited 10 participants with CTS and chronic pain of the arm/hand who were randomly distributed into two groups to receive topical menthol (Biofreeze) or placebo (gel with a menthol scent) during the working day and 48 hours later the other treatment (crossover design). Participants rated arm/hand pain intensity during the last hour of work (scale 0–10) immediately before 1, 2, and 3 hours after application. Furthermore, global rating of change (GROC) in arm/hand pain was assessed 3 hours after application. Compared with placebo, pain intensity and GROC improved more following application of topical menthol (P = 0.026 and P = 0.044, resp.). Pain intensity of the arm/hand decreased by −1.2 (CI 95%: −1.7 to −0.6) following topical menthol compared with placebo, corresponding to a moderate effect size of 0.63. In conclusion, topical menthol acutely reduces pain intensity during the working day in slaughterhouse workers with CTS and should be considered as an effective nonsystemic alternative to regular analgesics in the workplace management of chronic and neuropathic pain.
PMCID: PMC4178917  PMID: 25298894
3.  Effect of workplace- versus home-based physical exercise on pain in healthcare workers: study protocol for a single blinded cluster randomized controlled trial 
The prevalence and consequences of musculoskeletal pain is considerable among healthcare workers, allegedly due to high physical work demands of healthcare work. Previous investigations have shown promising results of physical exercise for relieving pain among different occupational groups, but the question remains whether such physical exercise should be performed at the workplace or conducted as home-based exercise. Performing physical exercise at the workplace together with colleagues may be more motivating for some employees and thus increase adherence. On the other hand, physical exercise performed during working hours at the workplace may be costly for the employers in terms of time spend. Thus, it seems relevant to compare the efficacy of workplace- versus home-based training on musculoskeletal pain. This study is intended to investigate the effect of workplace-based versus home-based physical exercise on musculoskeletal pain among healthcare workers.
This study was designed as a cluster randomized controlled trial performed at 3 hospitals in Copenhagen, Denmark. Clusters are hospital departments and hospital units. Cluster randomization was chosen to increase adherence and avoid contamination between interventions. Two hundred healthcare workers from 18 departments located at three different hospitals is allocated to 10 weeks of 1) workplace based physical exercise performed during working hours (using kettlebells, elastic bands and exercise balls) for 5 × 10 minutes per week and up to 5 group-based coaching sessions, or 2) home based physical exercise performed during leisure time (using elastic bands and body weight exercises) for 5 × 10 minutes per week. Both intervention groups will also receive ergonomic instructions on patient handling and use of lifting aides etc. Inclusion criteria are female healthcare workers working at a hospital. Average pain intensity (VAS scale 0-10) of the back, neck and shoulder (primary outcome) and physical exertion during work, social capital and work ability (secondary outcomes) is assessed at baseline and 10-week follow-up. Further, postural balance and mechanical muscle function is assessed during clinical examination at baseline and follow-up.
This cluster randomized trial will investigate the change in self-rated average pain intensity in the back, neck and shoulder after either 10 weeks of physical exercise at the workplace or at home.
Trial registration (NCT01921764).
PMCID: PMC3991922  PMID: 24708570
Musculoskeletal disorders; Occupational health; Health care; Strength training; Back pain; Neck pain; Shoulder pain
4.  Association between Neck/Shoulder Pain and Trapezius Muscle Tenderness in Office Workers 
Pain Research and Treatment  2014;2014:352735.
Background. Neck/shoulder pain is a common musculoskeletal disorder among adults. The pain is often assumed to be related to muscular tenderness rather than serious chronic disease. Aim. To determine the association between neck/shoulder pain intensity and trapezius muscle tenderness in office workers. Methods. 653 employees from two large office workplaces in Copenhagen, Denmark, replied to a questionnaire on health and working conditions (mean: age 43 years, body mass index 24 kg·m−2, computer use 90% of work time, 73% women). Respondents rated intensity of neck/shoulder pain during the previous three months on a scale of 0–10 and palpable tenderness of the upper trapezius muscle on a scale of “no tenderness,” “some tenderness,” or “severe tenderness.” Odds ratios for tenderness as a function of neck/shoulder pain intensity were determined using cumulative logistic regression controlled for age, gender, and chronic disease. Results. The prevalence of “no,” “some,” and “severe” tenderness of the trapezius muscle was 18%, 59%, and 23% in women and 51%, 42%, and 7% in men, respectively (chi-square, P < 0.0001). Participants with “no,” “some,” and “severe” tenderness of the trapezius muscle, respectively, rated their neck/shoulder pain intensity to 1.5 (SD 1.6), 3.8 (SD 2.0), and 5.7 (SD 1.9) for women and 1.4 (SD 1.4), 3.1 (SD 2.2), and 5.1 (SD 1.7) for men. For every unit increase in neck/shoulder pain intensity, the OR for one unit increase in trapezius tenderness was 1.86 (95% confidence interval 1.70 to 2.04). Conclusion. In office workers, a strong association between perceived neck/shoulder pain intensity and trapezius muscle tenderness exists. The present study provides reference values of pain intensity among office workers with no, some, and severe tenderness of the trapezius muscle.
PMCID: PMC3985383  PMID: 24800070
Muscle soreness can negatively interfere with the activities of daily living as well as sports performance. In the working environment, a common problem is muscle tenderness, soreness and pain, especially for workers frequently exposed to unilateral high repetitive movements tasks. The aim of the study is therefore to investigate the acute effect of massage applied using a simple device Thera‐band roller Massager on laboratory induced hamstring muscle soreness, and the potential cross over effect to the non‐massaged limb.
22 healthy untrained men (Mean age 34 +/− 7 years; mean height 181.7 +/− 6.9 cm; mean weight 80.6 +/− 6.4 kg; BMI: 24.5 +/− 1.3) with no prior history of knee, low back or neck injury or other adverse health issues were recruited. Participants visited the researchers on two separate occasions, separated by 48 hours, each time providing a soreness rating (modified visual analog scale 0‐10), and being tested for pressure pain threshold (PPT) and active range of motion (ROM) of the hamstring muscles. During the first visit, delayed onset muscular soreness of the hamstring muscles was induced by 10 x 10 repetitions of the stiff‐legged dead‐lift. On the second visit participants received either 1) 10 minutes of roller massage on one leg, while the contralateral leg served as a cross over control, or 2) Resting for 10 minutes with no massage at all. Measurement of soreness, PPT and ROM were taken immediately before and at 0, 10, 30 and 60 min. after treatment.
There was a significant group by time interaction for soreness (p < 0.0001) and PPT (p = 0.0007), with the massage group experiencing reduced soreness and increasing PPT compared with the control group. There was no group by time interaction for ROM (p = 0.18). At 10 min. post massage there was a significant reduction in soreness of the non‐massaged limb in the cross over control group compared to controls but this effect was lost 30 minutes post massage.
Massage with a roller device reduces muscle soreness and is accompanied by a higher PPT of the affected muscle.
Level of Evidence:
2c; outcomes research
PMCID: PMC3924612  PMID: 24567859
Cross over effect; delayed onset muscle soreness hyperalgesia; pain
6.  High Intensity Physical Exercise and Pain in the Neck and Upper Limb among Slaughterhouse Workers: Cross-Sectional Study 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:218546.
Slaughterhouse work involves a high degree of repetitive and forceful upper limb movements and thus implies an elevated risk of work-related musculoskeletal disorders. High intensity strength training effectively rehabilitates musculoskeletal disorders among sedentary employees, but less is known about the effect among workers with repetitive and forceful work demands. Before performing randomized controlled trials it may be beneficial to assess the cross-sectional connection between exercise and musculoskeletal pain. We investigated the association between high intensity physical exercise and pain among 595 slaughterhouse workers in Denmark, Europe. Using logistic regression analyses, odds ratios for pain and work disability as a function of physical exercise, gender, age, BMI, smoking, and job position were estimated. The prevalence of pain in the neck, shoulder, elbow, and hand/wrist was 48%, 60%, 40%, and 52%, respectively. The odds for experiencing neck pain were significantly lower among slaughterhouse workers performing physical exercise (OR = 0.70, CI: 0.49–0.997), whereas the odds for pain in the shoulders, elbow, or hand/wrist were not associated with exercise. The present study can be used as general reference of pain in the neck and upper extremity among slaughterhouse workers. Future studies should investigate the effect of high intensity physical exercise on neck and upper limb pain in slaughterhouse workers.
PMCID: PMC3910536  PMID: 24527440
7.  Participatory ergonomic intervention versus strength training on chronic pain and work disability in slaughterhouse workers: study protocol for a single-blind, randomized controlled trial 
The prevalence of musculoskeletal pain in the shoulder, arm and hand is high among slaughterhouse workers, allegedly due to the highly repetitive and forceful exposure of these body regions during work. Work disability is a common consequence of these pains. Lowering the physical exposure through ergonomics intervention is the traditional strategy to reduce the workload. An alternative strategy could be to increase physical capacity of the worker through strength training. This study investigates the effect of two contrasting interventions, participatory ergonomics versus strength training on pain and work disability in slaughterhouse workers with chronic pain.
66 slaughterhouse workers were allocated to 10 weeks of (1) strength training of the shoulder, arm and hand muscles for 3 x 10 minutes per week, or (2) participatory ergonomics involving counseling on workstation adjustment and optimal use of work tools (~usual care control group). Inclusion criteria were (1) working at a slaughterhouse for at least 30 hours per week, (2) pain intensity in the shoulder, elbow/forearm, or hand/wrist of at least 3 on a 0–10 VAS scale during the last three months, (3) pain lasting for more than 3 months, (4) frequent pain (at least 3 days per week) (5) at least moderate work disability, (6) no strength training during the last year, (7) no ergonomics instruction during the last year.
Perceived pain intensity (VAS scale 0–10) of the shoulder, elbow/forearm and hand/wrist (primary outcome) and Disability of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (Work module, DASH questionnaire) were measured at baseline and 10-week follow-up. Further, total muscle tenderness score and muscle function were assessed during clinical examination at baseline and follow-up.
This RCT study will provide experimental evidence of the effectiveness of contrasting work-site interventions aiming at reducing chronic pain and work disability among employees engaged in repetitive and forceful work.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC3606231  PMID: 23433448
Musculoskeletal disorders; Occupational health; Shoulder pain; Tennis elbow; Repetitive and forceful movements
Swiss ball training is recommended as a low intensity modality to improve joint position, posture, balance, and neural feedback. However, proper training intensity is difficult to obtain during Swiss ball exercises whereas strengthening exercises on machines usually are performed to induce high level of muscle activation.
To compare muscle activation as measured by electromyography (EMG) of global core and thigh muscles during abdominal crunches performed on Swiss ball with elastic resistance or on an isotonic training machine when normalized for training intensity.
42 untrained individuals (18 men and 24 women) aged 28–67 years participated in the study. EMG activity was measured in 13 muscles during 3 repetitions with a 10 RM load during both abdominal crunches on training ball with elastic resistance and in the same movement utilizing a training machine (seated crunch, Technogym, Cesena, Italy). The order of performance of the exercises was randomized, and EMG amplitude was normalized to maximum voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC) EMG.
When comparing between muscles, normalized EMG was highest in the rectus abdominis (P<0.01) and the external obliques (P<0.01). However, crunches on Swiss ball with elastic resistance showed higher activity of the rectus abdominis than crunches performed on the machine (104±3.8 vs 84±3.8% nEMG respectively, P<0.0001). By contrast, crunches performed on Swiss ball induced lower activity of the rectus femoris than crunches in training machine (27±3.7 vs 65±3.8% nEMG respectively, P<0.0001) Further, gender, age and musculoskeletal pain did not significantly influence the findings.
Crunches on a Swiss ball with added elastic resistance induces high rectus abdominis activity accompanied by low hip flexor activity which could be beneficial for individuals with low back pain. In opposition, the lower rectus abdominis activity and higher rectus femoris activity observed in machine warrant caution for individuals with lumbar pain. Importantly, both men and women, younger and elderly, and individuals with and without pain benefitted equally from the exercises.
PMCID: PMC3414069  PMID: 22893857
abdominal crunch; elastic resistance; electromyographic activity; exercise ball
9.  Effect of specific resistance training on forearm pain and work disability in industrial technicians: cluster randomised controlled trial 
BMJ Open  2012;2(1):e000412.
To determine the effect of specific resistance training on forearm pain and work disability in industrial technicians.
Design and setting
Two-armed cluster randomised controlled trial of 20 weeks performed at two industrial production units in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Working-age industrial technicians both with and without pain and disability.
The training group (n=282) performed specific resistance training for the shoulder, neck and arm muscles three times a week. The control group (n=255) was advised to continue normal physical activity.
All participants rated forearm pain intensity (Visual Analogue Scale, 0–100 mm) once a week (primary outcome) and replied to a questionnaire on work disability (Disability of the Arm Shoulder and Hand, 0–100) at baseline and follow-up (secondary outcome).
Questionnaires were sent to 854 workers of which 30 (n=282) and 27 (n=255) clusters were randomised to training and control, respectively. Of these, 211 and 237 participants, respectively, responded to the follow-up questionnaire. Intention-to-treat analyses including both individuals with and without pain showed that from baseline to follow-up, pain intensity and work disability decreased more in the training group than in the control group (4–5 on a scale of 0–100, p<0.01–0.001). Among those with pain >30 mm Visual Analogue Scale at baseline (n=54), the OR for complete recovery at follow-up in the training group compared with the control group was 4.6 (95% CI 1.2 to 17.9). Among those with work disability >30 at baseline (n=113), the OR for complete recovery at follow-up in the training group compared with the control group was 6.0 (95% CI 1.8 to 19.8).
Specific resistance training of the shoulder, neck and arm reduces forearm pain and work disability among industrial technicians.
Trial registration number
Article summary
Article focus
Forearm pain is associated with work disability and healthcare costs.
Specific resistance training effectively reduces neck and shoulder pain, but its effect on forearm pain is only scarcely investigated.
Our study determines the effect of specific resistance training on forearm pain and work disability in industrial technicians.
Key message
Specific resistance training of the shoulder, neck and arm reduces forearm pain and work disability among industrial technicians.
Strengths and limitations of this study
The cluster randomised controlled design with high statistical power strengthens our study.
As we included both public and private sector companies of which most of the invited employees agreed to participate, the external validity of our findings is high.
The inclusion and exclusion criteria limit the generalisability to technicians with non-specific forearm pain.
A limitation is the loss to follow-up of more than 20% of the participants in the training group.
PMCID: PMC3282287  PMID: 22331386

Results 1-9 (9)