A systematic analysis of the literature was undertaken to determine which characteristics of workplace interventions are most effective in assisting people with persistent musculoskeletal pain (PMP) to remain productively employed. Databases of Medline, PsychINFO, CINAHL and Embase were searched using MeSH and other relevant terms. Studies that reported on interventions at, or involving, the workplace were included. Interventions were considered as either focused on the individual or multilevel. Outcome measures assessed included: job loss, productivity, sick leave, pain and cost benefit. A quality assessment was undertaken using GRADE criteria with development of impact statements to synthesise the results. Eighteen relevant articles (14 studies) were identified for inclusion in the review. No high-level evidence for workplace interventions to assist people with PMP were identified. Low numbers of participants and limited studies resulted in downgrading of evidence. However, individually focused interventions will probably reduce job loss and sick leave, but are unlikely to reduce pain. Multilevel focused interventions will probably result in decreased sick leave and provide some cost benefit. The evidence on productivity was limited and of poor quality. Further research is required because sustainable employment for individuals with PMP is important and understanding what works is necessary to ensure effective workplace interventions are developed.
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