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Effect of an office ergonomic randomised controlled trial among workers with neck and upper extremity pain
  1. Jonathan Dropkin1,
  2. Hyun Kim1,
  3. Laura Punnett2,
  4. David H Wegman2,
  5. Nicholas Warren3,
  6. Bryan Buchholz2
  1. 1Department of Population Health, North Shore-LIJ Health System, Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, Great Neck, New York, USA
  2. 2Department of Work Environment, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, Massachusetts, USA
  3. 3Ergonomic Technology Center, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, Connecticut, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jonathan Dropkin, Department of Population Health, North Shore-LIJ Health System, Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, 175 Community Drive, Great Neck, NY 11021, USA; jdropkin{at}nshs.edu

Abstract

Background Office computer workers are at increased risk for neck/upper extremity (UE) musculoskeletal pain.

Methods A seven-month office ergonomic intervention study evaluated the effect of two engineering controls plus training on neck/UE pain and mechanical exposures in 113 computer workers, including a 3-month follow-up period. Participants were randomised into an intervention group, who received a keyboard/mouse tray (KBT), touch pad (TP) for the non-dominant hand and keyboard shortcuts, and a control group who received keyboard shortcuts. Participants continued to have available a mouse at the dominant hand. Outcomes were pain severity, computer rapid upper limb assessment (RULA), and hand activity level. Prevalence ratios (PRs) evaluated intervention effects using dichotomised pain and exposure scores.

Results In the intervention group, the dominnt proximal UE pain PR=0.9, 95% CI 0.7 to 1.2 and the dominant distal UE PR=0.8, 95% CI 0.5 to 1.3, postintervention. The non-dominant proximal UE pain PR=1.0, 95% CI 0.8 to 1.4, while the non-dominant distal UE PR=1.2, 95% CI 0.6 to 2.2, postintervention. Decreases in non-neutral postures were found in two RULA elements (non-dominant UE PR=0.9, 95% CI 0.8 to 0.9 and full non-dominant RULA PR=0.8, 95% CI 0.8 to 0.9) of the intervention group. Hand activity increased on the non-dominant side (PR=1.4, 95% CI 1.2 to 1.6) in this group.

Conclusions While the intervention reduced non-neutral postures in the non-dominant UE, it increased hand activity in the distal region of this extremity. To achieve lower hand activity, a KBT and TP used in the non-dominant hand may not be the best devices to use.

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