Nurses and nursing aides are at high risk of developing musculoskeletal pain (MSP). This study aimed to evaluate a multifaceted intervention to prevent and manage MSP in two hospitals.
Material and methods
We performed a two-armed cluster randomized controlled trial, with a late intervention control group. Clusters were independent hospital units with nursing staff as participants. The intervention comprised three evidence-based components: participatory ergonomics, health promotion activities and case management. Both the intervention and the control group received usual occupational health care. The intervention lasted one year. MSP and work functioning data was collected at baseline, six and 12-month follow-up. Odds ratios (OR) and their 95% confidence intervals (95%CI) were calculated for MSP risk in the intervention group compared to the control group using logistic regression through GEE. Differences in work functioning between the intervention and control group were analyzed using linear regression through GEE. The incidence of sickness absence was calculated through logistic regression and Cox proportional hazard modeling was used to analyze the effect of the intervention on sickness absence duration.
Eight clusters were randomized including 473 nurses and nursing aides. At 12 months, the intervention group showed a statistically significant decrease of the risk in neck, shoulders and upper back pain, compared to the control group (OR = 0.37; 95%CI = 0.14-0.96). A reduction of low back pain was also observed, though non statistically significant. We found no differences regarding work functioning and the incidence and duration of sickness absence.
The intervention was effective to reduce neck, shoulder and upper back pain. Our results, though modest, suggests that interventions to prevent and manage MSP need a multifactorial approach including the three levels of prevention, and framed within the biopsychosocial model.