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Relative benefit of a stage of change approach for the prevention of musculoskeletal pain and discomfort: a cluster randomised trial
  1. Diana Doda1,2,
  2. Paul Rothmore1,
  3. Dino Pisaniello1,
  4. Nancy Briggs1,
  5. Sasha Stewart1,
  6. Mohammed Mahmood1,
  7. Janet E Hiller1,3
  1. 1School of Public Health, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
  2. 2Faculty of Medicine, University of Sam Ratulangi, Manado, Indonesia
  3. 3School of Health Sciences, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Paul Rothmore, School of Public Health, The University of Adelaide, Mail Drop DX650 550, Level 7, 178 North Terrace, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia; paul.rothmore{at}


Objectives To examine the benefit of a psychological Stage of Change (SOC) approach, relative to standard ergonomics advice, for the prevention of work-related musculoskeletal pain and discomfort (MSPD).

Methods A cluster randomised trial was conducted in South Australia across a broad range of workplaces. Repeated face-to-face interviews were conducted onsite to assess MSPD, safety climate, job satisfaction and other factors. Changes in MSPD across intervention groups and time were investigated using Generalised Estimating Equation (GEE) methods.

Results 25 workgroups (involving 242 workers) were randomly allocated to either a standard intervention or an intervention tailored according to SOC. The prevalence of MSPD increased for both groups, but was only significant for the standard group, in respect of lower back MSPD. Workers receiving tailored interventions were 60% less likely to experience lower back MSPD. After adjusting for age, gender and job satisfaction, it was found that company safety climate and length of employment were significantly correlated to the time-intervention effect. There was no correlation with workload.

Conclusions Compared with standard ergonomics advice to management, there was evidence of a benefit of stage-matched intervention for MSPD prevention, particularly for low back pain. Organisational safety climate should be taken into account when planning prevention programmes.

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