A recent systematic review was conducted to examine the determinants and predictors of absenteeism and return-to-work for workers with shoulder disorders (Desmeules, Braen, Lamontage, & Dionne, 2016). Work-related upper extremity disorders (WRUEDs) account for 30-47% of point prevalence incidents in workplaces in modern societies (Huissetede, Bierma-Zienstra, Koes, & Verhaar, 2006). The most frequently reported WRUEDs is the shoulder followed by the hand/wrist and then elbow. Depending upon the complexity of the injury absenteeism or delayed returned to work can occur.

In the systematic review eight articles were evaluated that met the inclusion criteria. Four of the articles were subject to high bias. Desmeules and his colleagues found that across the studies evaluated, there was insufficient and inconsistent evidence on the role of any one factor related to work absence or return to work. The only factors that were found to be significant in one or more of the reviewed studies were traumatic or overuse injury, disease severity and previous sickness absence.

The one factor that employers can control are the risk factors associated with an overuse injury. The primary risk factors are associated with above shoulder work (static and repetitive motion) and forceful shoulder motions. Strategies to reduce above shoulder reaching include either lowering the work, raising the worker or limit time spent working in above shoulder postures. In some cases, work postures cannot be limited, so teaching workers work relief exercises to counteract the effects of working above the shoulders can be an effective strategy. Refer to our new Ergo Insight that goes over some simple Work Relief Exercises.

Works Cited

Desmeules, F., Braen, C., Lamontage, M., & Dionne, C. E.-S. (2016). Determinants and predictors of absenteeism and return-to-work in workers with shoulder disorders. Work: A journal of prevention, assessment and rehabilitation, 55(1), 101-113.

Huissetede, B., Bierma-Zienstra, S., Koes, B., & Verhaar, J. (2006). Incidence and prevalence of upper-extremity musculoskeletal disorders. A systematic appraisal of the literature. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 7(7).