Is Your Job Hurting Your Back?

How to Handle Lower Back Pain in the Workplace

Lower back pain can be caused by a number of one-time “accidents. You may lift a heavy object incorrectly, overexert yourself on the tennis court, or even sleep in a way that strains your back.
Worker wearing a hardhat and bent over in pain.Lower back pain can be caused by a number of one-time accidents. Photo Source:, a study sheds light on the ways that low back pain may be caused by something you do every single day—going to work. If your job is causing stress on your back, you should talk to your doctor about a plan for reducing your risk of job-related pain and injury.

The study looked at the association between persistent low back pain and female healthcare workers who were responsible for lifting and handling patients. The study, “Patient handling and risk for developing persistent low-back pain among female healthcare workers,” was published online ahead of print in October 2012. It appeared in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health.

How the Study Was Conducted
The researchers looked at women who worked with elderly individuals in healthcare settings. Women were split into 2 groups: those without lower back pain, and those who had sub-chronic low back pain (1-30 days of low back pain in the past 12 months) when the study began. The women were asked about the number of patient-handling activities they conducted each day. They were also asked about the amount of days they experienced low back pain.

Using statistical models, the researchers were able to determine the odds that a woman would develop persistent low back pain based on the amount of patient-handling activities she performed. Persistent low back pain was defined as having more than 30 days of pain in the past year.

What the Researchers Found
The results of the study showed an association between lower back pain and patient-handling duties in women who had sub-chronic low back pain at the beginning of the study. For these women, the odds of low back pain increased with the number of patient-handling activities that they had to perform. This association was not seen in women who did not have a history of low back pain.

What This Low Back Pain Study Means for You
People who work in healthcare environments who must lift and handle patients should take special care with their backs.  The authors of the above study argue that patient-handling activities should be kept below 10 each day for workers who have sub-chronic low back pain.

However, individuals in any job who worry that their daily tasks may be affecting their back health should talk to their doctor about ways that they can reduce their risk of back injury. For more information about jobs that may put your back at risk, read our High-risk Jobs: Is Your Job Putting Your Spine at Risk? article.

Updated on: 01/02/19
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