Cervical and lumbar range of motion limitations are usually associated with musculoskeletal pain in the neck and lower back, and are a major health problem among nurses. Physical exercise has been evaluated as an effective intervention method for improving cervical and lumbar range of motion, and for preventing and reducing musculoskeletal pain. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of a home-exercise therapy programme on cervical and lumbar range of motion among intensive care unit nurses who had experienced mild to moderate musculoskeletal pain in the neck and or lower back during the previous six months. A quasi-experimental study was conducted among intensive care unit nurses at Tartu University Hospital (Estonia) between May and July 2011. Thirteen nurses who had suffered musculoskeletal pain episodes in the neck and or lower back during the previous six months underwent an 8-week home-exercise therapy programme. Eleven nurses without musculoskeletal pain formed a control group. Questions from the Nordic Musculoskeletal Questionnaire and the 11-point Visual Analogue Scale were used to select potential participants for the experimental group via an assessment of the prevalence and intensity of musculoskeletal pain. Cervical range of motion and lumbar range of motion in flexion, extension, lateral flexion and (cervical range of motion only) rotation were measured with a digital goniometer. A paired t-test was used to compare the measured parameters before and after the home-exercise therapy programme. A Student’s t-test was used to analyse any differences between the experimental and control groups. After the home-exercise therapy, there was a significant increase (p < 0.05) in cervical range of motion in flexion, extension, lateral flexion and rotation, and in lumbar range of motion in lateral flexion. Cervical range of motion in flexion was significantly higher (p < 0.01) in the experimental group compared to the control group after therapy.
Our results suggest an 8-week intensive home-exercise therapy programme may improve cervical and lumbar range of motion among intensive care nurses. Further studies are needed to develop this simple but effective home-exercise therapy programme to help motivate nurses to perform such exercises regularly.