Cold Weather Work May Raise Your Back and Neck Pain Risk

Does working outdoors raise your risk for developing neck and back pain?

Working in Inclement WeatherA recent study published online explored whether working in a low-temperature environment affected the risk of neck and lower back problems in construction workers.

The study, “Back and neck pain due to working in a cold environment: a cross-sectional study of male construction workers,” was published in September 2012 in the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health.

How the Study Was Conducted
Researchers in Sweden examined data on workers in the construction industry (134,754 men) who received regular health examinations from 1971 to 1974. The researchers looked at data on workers who were exposed to different temperatures during their day: construction workers (who worked outdoors), office workers, and foremen. The workers answered a questionnaire about their levels of neck pain and back pain.

Participants were also evaluated based on their location (which province they worked in), and data was collected on the varying temperatures in these areas.

What the Researchers Found
After controlling for the participants’ age, body mass index, and whether or not they smoked, the researchers found that neck pain and lower back pain were more common among manual construction workers than the office workers and foremen. Additionally, workers in the northern and central provinces had a higher risk of pain than workers in the southern province, which meant that the risk of neck and lower back pain increased with lower outdoor temperatures.

The study authors conclude that working outside in cold weather may increase a person’s risk of back pain and neck pain.

What This Study Means for You
From the way you sit in your office chair to the amount of time you spend working outdoors in cold weather, your work environment can play an important role in your spine health. If you are concerned about the effects of working outside on your back, talk to your doctor or employer about ways to modify your work environment to help lower your risk of pain and injuries.  

Updated on: 08/18/15
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