Stretching at work for injury prevention: issues, evidence, and recommendations.
Appl Occup Environ Hyg 2003 May; 18(5):331-338
Advocates of workplace stretching programs claim that enhanced flexibility can prevent work-related musculoskeletal injuries. While numerous companies have implemented stretching programs,(1;2) the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of these programs have not been demonstrated. Most reports of the benefits achieved by worksite stretching programs continue to be published predominantly in the popular literature or trade journals. These reports are based on uncontrolled or quasi-experimental in-house evaluations that rely on self-reported outcomes rather than objective measures.(3-5) Furthermore, most studies, regardless of quality of design, seek only to answer one broad question: "Does stretching prevent injury?" This single focus eclipses more specific questions that should be asked about stretching, such as, "Who does stretching benefit, and in what situations?" Anecdotal evidence suggests that workplace stretching programs are increasing in popularity. There are a number of forums addressing whether such programs have a legitimate place as part of or as a complement to ergonomic analysis and intervention in reducing the toll of work-related musculoskeletal disorders. The purpose of this report is to review studies that evaluate flexibility among working populations, or workplace stretching programs, or both, and to examine possible associations of flexibility and stretching programs with incidence of work-related musculoskeletal injury. While most studies remain equivocal about the role of stretching in injury prevention, they raise additional issues pertaining to flexibility and stretching that we also address.
Musculoskeletal-system; Injury-prevention; Physical-exercise; Physical-fitness; Work-environment; Worker-health; Workers; Ergonomics; Physiological-effects; Physiological-factors; Biomechanics; Muscle-function; Muscles; Back-injuries; Motion-studies
Jennifer Hess, Labor Education and Research Center, 1289 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403
Cooperative Agreement; Construction
Applied Occupational and Environmental Hygiene
The Center to Protect Workers' Rights