Systematic Review of Alternative Interventions for Construction Workers to Manage Work-Related Musculoskeletal Pain and Discomfort

Isaac Abraham Rodriguez, University of Texas at El Paso


Background: The prevalence of Work-Related Musculoskeletal Pain and Discomfort (WRMSPD) among construction workers in 2017 was almost 20,000 injuries. Close to 60% were overexertion, others included lifting and lowering. The most common form of WRMSPD could originate from the upper back to lower back and neck pain. It was reported that the highest prevalence of WRMSPD were in the upper extremities (nearing 60%) because of the physically demanding factor of the job (heavy lifting and repetitive movement). Over 250,000 cases were reported to be WRMSPD in the private sector of the U.S. Purpose: The purpose of this systematic review was to investigate the effectiveness of alternative interventions for construction workers to rehabilitate pain and discomfort for WRMSPD. Method: A systematic search was conducted in databases including PubMed, Google Scholar, EBSCO/Medline/CINAHL/ PsycInfo, MEsH, Cochrane and Science Direct, CDC-NIOSH, BLS, and Science Direct for English articles published from 2016 to 2021. The PICO strategy guided the assessment of study relevance. In addition, randomized controlled trials (RTCs) and non-RTCs were accepted in the bibliographical search in which (1) subjects included adult construction workers that experienced or at risk of WMSPD, including specific and non-specific MSD and musculoskeletal pain, symptoms, and discomfort; (2) the intervention was initiated by the workplace, supported by the workplace and/or carried out at the workplace; (3) a comparison group was included, i.e. no treatment, treatment as usual, or another comparison treatment at the workplace; and (4) a measure of WMSPD, risk, or intervention impact, was reported towards the end of the study. The quality assessment and evidence synthesis were conducted using the tool for quantitative studies from the Effective Public Health Practice Project (EPHPP). Results: From a total of 61 studies retrieved, articles 2 duplicates were removed leaving 59 articles. Additional records were identified from the CPWR. Following the inclusion criteria, 39 articles were read and analyzed to determine their eligibility. Five articles were selected that met all the criteria from a five-year gap of 2016-2021. From the quality appraisal, two studies were determined to have a high quality, one medium quality study, and one low-quality study. The evidence synthesis consisted of 4 adequate studies that could be replicated as follows being ergonomics, participatory ergonomics, and health and safety exercises. Conclusion: The evidence synthesis indicated that the use of participatory ergonomics continues to be a common intervention for construction workers. Overall, there is very limited evidence from recent studies that support the effectiveness of interventions. While there are some significant findings of a positive impact from intervention, including reduction of pain and injury events, there are few to no significant changes reported in most of the intervention studies.

Subject Area

Public health|Occupational safety|Occupational Therapy|Biomechanics|Health care management|Physiology

Recommended Citation

Rodriguez, Isaac Abraham, "Systematic Review of Alternative Interventions for Construction Workers to Manage Work-Related Musculoskeletal Pain and Discomfort" (2021). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI28714814.