What is Physiotherapy in context of a workplace and it’s reasoning


 The last few years have been marked by technological developments which have consequently led to increased competitiveness in the workplace and the productivity levels demanded from the employees in their various departments. This increase in demand leads to greater physical and mental fatigue which, in association with growing levels of sedentary lifestyle (it is estimated that around 27% of European workers spend most of their day seated), contributes to the development of work-related health issues. 1 , 2

Occupational health issues can be developed either in the context of physically sedentary work (e.g. in an office) where static and prolonged postures are often adopted; or in jobs of a predominantly of a physical nature (e.g. in a factory) with repetitive movements and load bearing. 3, 4 This type of musculoskeletal injury mostly affects the spine (mainly in the cervical and lumbar regions) and upper limbs – representing about 40% of all occupational diseases in Europe. 1, 5 For this reason, absenteeism (absence of the worker) and presenteeism (presence of an employee who is not fully functioning in the workplace because of an injury or other condition) have been growing problems in many companies.  In both instances, they contribute to decrease in productivity and an increase in costs. 2

It is, therefore, very important to implement a health promotion programme using physical exercise in the workplace which helps prevent the development of new musculoskeletal disorders.  It should be focused on the unique needs of each individual, increasing their knowledge in better general health habits and providing ergonomic changes to improve the efficiency of each task. 6, 7


Important aspects in the promoting health in the workplace

Communication: Each work area has their own characteristics and every employee has their individuality, which means that any programme should be tailored to meet the individual requirements as best as it possibly can. 1   For this to happen, it is essential that there is a good line of communication between the Physiotherapist and the other health professionals (Medical Specialist in Occupational Medicine, for example), the management of the company and with the employees themselves. The relationship with the employee is particularly important, as the more included they are in the programme, the more motivated and eager to participate they will be, thus achieving better results.  2 ,8 ,9 

Physical Exercise and Education: The benefits of physical exercise for good health are now widely known. It has an important impact on our physical and mental well beings, helps decrease mortality and morbidity rates, increases muscle strength and cardio-respiratory functions, as well as regulating body hormones (increased endorphins and decreased cortisol).  1 ,7 ,10   For these reasons, the aim of a health promotion programme should be based on the practice of a series of exercises that are achievable and appropriate to the person/group of people for which they are intended.  They should be easy for the employee to recall and be repeated on a regular basis during the working day. 1

Giving the employee a clearly understanding as to the reasoning and benefits behind an exercise programme is key in order to gain their enthusiasm to participate in the activities and hence improve productivity. 6

Ergonomics in the workplace: The aim of an ergonomic change programme is to help overcome possible structural barriers in the workplace and reduce the physical demand associated – thus decreasing the probability of developing musculoskeletal issues. Given the demands placed on workers today, the scientific literature has shown that ergonomic changes, although advantageous, are not sufficiently effective if used in isolation. They should, therefore, always be in association with an exercise programme that is aimed at improving the physical condition of workers.

In conclusion:  In today’s society, positive physical and mental health is essential for our well-being and productivity in the work environment. As we spend many hours a day in the work environment, it is important we use physical exercise as a method to help prevent occupational related health issues as it is one of the best resources at our disposal.


Adapted from the original: https://www.cmm.com.pt/fisioterapia-em-contexto-laboral/



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2.C. Cancelliere, J. D. Cassidy, C. Ammendolia, and P. Côté, “Are workplace health promotion programs effective at improving presenteeism in workers? A systematic review and best evidence synthesis of the literature,” BMC Public Health, vol. 11, pp. 1–11, 2011, doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-11-395.

3.O. O. Aje, B. Smith-Campbell, and C. Bett, “Preventing Musculoskeletal Disorders in Factory Workers: Evaluating a New Eight Minute Stretching Program,” Work. Heal. Saf., vol. 66, no. 7, pp. 343–347, 2018, doi: 10.1177/2165079917743520.

4.X. Chen, B. K. Coombes, G. Sjøgaard, D. Jun, S. O’Leary, and V. Johnston, “Workplacebased interventions for neck pain in office workers: Systematic review and metaanalysis,” Phys. Ther., vol. 98, no. 1, pp. 40–62, 2018, doi: 10.1093/ptj/pzx101.

5.D. Van Eerd et al., “Effectiveness of workplace interventions in the prevention of upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders and symptoms: An update of the evidence,”Occup. Environ. Med., vol. 73, no. 1, pp. 62–70, 2016, doi: 10.1136/oemed-2015- 102992.

6.M. Pereira et al., “The impact of workplace ergonomics and neck-specific exercise versus ergonomics and health promotion interventions on office worker productivity: A cluster-randomized trial,” Scand. J. Work. Environ. Heal., vol. 45, no. 1, pp. 42–52, 2019, doi: 10.5271/sjweh.3760.

7.S. Joyce et al., “Workplace interventions for common mental disorders: A systematic meta-review,” Psychol. Med., vol. 46, no. 4, pp. 683–697, 2016, doi: 10.1017/S0033291715002408.

8.M. D. Jakobsen, E. Sundstrup, M. Brandt, K. Jay, P. Aagaard, and L. L. Andersen, “Effect of workplace-versus home-based physical exercise on musculoskeletal pain among healthcare workers: A cluster randomized controlled trial,” Scand. J. Work. Environ. Heal., vol. 41, no. 2, pp. 153–163, 2015, doi: 10.5271/sjweh.3479.

9.L. L. Andersen, K. I. Proper, L. Punnett, R. Wynne, R. Persson, and N. Wiezer, “Workplace Health Promotion and Wellbeing,” Sci. World J., vol. 2015, no. 1, pp. 5–6, 2015, doi: 10.1155/2015/606875.

10.A. H. Y. Chu, D. Koh, F. M. Moy, and F. Müller-Riemenschneider, “Do workplace physical activity interventions improve mental health outcomes?,” Occup. Med. (Chic. Ill)., vol. 64, no. 4, pp. 235–245, 2014, doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqu045.

11.J. A. Caldwell, J. L. Caldwell, L. A. Thompson, and H. R. Lieberman, “Fatigue and its management in the workplace,” Neurosci. Biobehav. Rev., vol. 96, no. July 2018, pp. 272–289, 2019, doi: 0.1016/j.neubiorev.2018.10.024.

12.M. D. Jakobsen et al., “Effect of workplace- versus home-based physical exercise on pain in healthcare workers: Study protocol for a single blinded cluster randomized controlled trial,” BMC Musculoskelet. Disord., vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 1–9, 2014, doi: 10.1186/1471-2474-15-119.


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