Systematic reviews

Systematic reviews provide an overview of the evidence from higher quality studies on a specific research question. IWH has developed in-house expertise in systematic reviews of work-health research. Cochrane Back and Neck, based at IWH, conducts systematic reviews of clinical research on back and neck pain.

Below is information on a wide range of systematic review projects undertaken by the Institute for Work & Health.

Contextualizing systematic review findings

A research project funded in 2014 by the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba involved collaboration between researchers at the Institute for Work & Health and Memorial University’s SafetyNet Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Research. The purpose of the project, called Evidence in Context for Occupational Health and Safety (EC-OHS), was to develop and test an innovative methodology for providing decision support for provincial and local occupational health and safety (OHS) stakeholders by synthesizing the best available evidence on questions chosen by them, and then contextualizing the results to produce recommendations geared to be effective in their specific contexts.

Below are two publications produced as part of that project. The first is a handbook that can used by OHS stakeholders seeking to improve policy and/or practice by contextualizing the results of a research synthesis (e.g. a systematic review) on a particular OHS issue. The second is an example of this contextualization approach being applied to the findings of an updated systematic review on managing depression in the workplace, contextualized for the province of Manitoba.

Preventing work-related injury or disease

Effective workplace interventions to prevent upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders (2016)
Interventions to address depression in the workplace (2011) Note: this review was updated in 2017 as part of "contextualization" project described above.
Training and education for the protection of workers (2010)
Health and safety in small enterprises (2008)
Upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders (2008)
Injury/illness prevention and loss control (IPC) programs (2008)
Participatory ergonomic interventions: implementation and process (2008)
Occupational health and safety interventions with economic evaluations (2007)
Interventions in health-care settings to protect musculoskeletal health (2007)
Factors associated with occupational disease among young people (2006)
Risk factors for work injury among youth (2006)
Workplace interventions to prevent musculoskeletal and visual symptoms and disorders among computer users (2006)
The effectiveness of participatory ergonomic interventions (2005)
The effectiveness of occupational health and safety management systems (2005)
Occupational health and safety management audit instruments (2005)

Preventing and managing disability

Effective workplace-based return-to-work interventions: a systematic review update (2017) 
Return-to-work prognostic factors following acute low-back pain (2011)
Interventions to address depression in the workplace (2011)
Workplace-based return-to-work interventions (2004)

Knowledge transfer and exchange (KTE)

Tools to measure the impact of KTE activities (2011)

Evidence-based clinical practice

See the Cochrane Back Review Group's systematic reviews section for information on their reviews. Several recent Cochrane reviews on back and neck pain involved IWH researchers:

Physical examination for lumbar radiculopathy due to disc herniation in patients with low-back pain (2010)
Massage for low-back pain (2010)
Low level laser therapy for nonspecific low-back pain (2008)
Opioids for chronic low-back pain (2007)
Manual material handling advice and assistive devices for preventing and treating back pain in workers (2007)
Traction for low-back pain with or without sciatica (2007)
Interventions for preventing and treating pelvic and back pain in pregnancy (2007)
Herbal medicine for low back pain (2006)
Exercise therapy for treatment of non-specific low back pain (2005)
Acupuncture and dry-needling for low back pain (2005)
Back schools for non-specific low-back pain (2004)
Muscle relaxants for non-specific low back pain (2003)

Summaries and guides

From the evidence in these reviews, we've created a number of workplace guides and summaries.

Sharing Best Evidence summaries
Health & Safety Smart Planner: A cost-benefit tool for Ontario workplaces
Reducing MSD hazards in the workplace: a guide to successful participatory ergonomics programs
Neck Pain Evidence Summary
Seven ‘Principles' for Successful Return to Work
Canadian Guideline for Safe and Effective Use of Opioids for Chronic Non-Cancer Pain
Working Together: Successful Strategies for RTW
Six Messages for Preventing MSDs


Read more about the systematic review workshops on how to plan, conduct and communicate the results of a systematic review.

Contact the systematic review program:

Emma Irvin, Director, Research Operations
Systematic Review Program
Institute for Work & Health
481 University Avenue, Suite 800
Toronto, ON M5G 2E9

Phone: 416-927-2027 ext. 2109
Fax: 416-927-4167 Attention: Emma Irvin