Effect evaluation of a self-management programme for employees with complaints of the arm, neck or shoulder: a randomised controlled trial

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To evaluate the effectiveness of a self-management intervention (including an eHealth module), compared with usual care, in employees with chronic non-specific complaints of the arm, neck or shoulder (persisting >3 months).


Participants were randomised into the self-management group (SG) or usual care group (UCG). The SG participated in 6 self-management sessions and could use an eHealth module; the UCG could use all available usual care. The primary outcome of the study was score on the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand questionnaire (DASH). Secondary outcomes included: absenteeism, pain in the previous week, quality of life, pain catastrophising, self-efficacy, work style, presenteeism, fatigue, and limitations experienced during work. Data were analysed using generalised estimating equations (GEE) linear regression and Mann-Whitney U tests, and were collected at baseline, 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month follow-up.


On the general module of the DASH, no significant difference between SG and the UCG was detected. On most of the other outcome measures, there were no significant between-group differences. In the DASH work module, the between-group effect was −3.82 (95% CI −7.46 to −0.19, p=0.04). For limitations experienced in job-related activities the between-group effect was −1.01 (95% CI −1.97 to −0.04, p=0.04). The mean hours of sport activities in the past 3 months, measured at 12 months, was 1.00 h (95% CI −1.90 to −0.12 h, p=0.03) less in the SG compared with the UCG.


The self-management intervention improved the participants’ perceived disability during work. Since no significant between-group differences were found on most outcome measures, the results of this study should be interpreted with caution.

Trial registration number

Dutch Trial Registration number NTR 3816.

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