Why Some People Experience Work-Related Lower Back Pain

The Centers for Disease Control reviewed over 40 recent studies that provide evidence regarding the relationship between low-back disorder and five physical workplace factors: 


  1. Heavy physical work
  2. Lifting and forceful movements
  3. Bending and twisting (awkward postures)
  4. Whole-body vibration (WBV)
  5. Static work postures

The review provided evidence for a positive relationship between back disorder and heavy physical work, although risk estimates were more moderate than for lifting/forceful movements, awkward postures, and WBV.

There is strong evidence that low-back disorders are associated with work-related lifting and forceful movements. Of 18 epidemiologic studies that were reviewed, 13 were consistent in demonstrating positive relationships.

Studies using objective measures to examine specific lifting activities generally demonstrated risk. For example, one high-risk group averaged 226 lifts per hour.

Several studies suggested that both lifting and awkward postures were important contributors to the risk of low-back disorder. The observed relationships are consistent with biomechanical and other laboratory evidence regarding the effects of lifting and dynamic motion on back tissues.

The review provided evidence that work-related awkward postures are associated with low-back disorders. Exposure-response relationships were demonstrated. Again, it appeared that lifting and awkward postures both contribute to risk of low-back disorder.

There is strong evidence of an association between exposure to WBV and low-back disorder. Most of the studies that examined relationships in high exposure groups using detailed quantitative exposure measures found strong positive associations and exposure-response relationships between WBV and low back disorders.

Both experimental and epidemiologic evidence suggest that WBV may act in combination with other work-related factors, such as prolonged sitting, lifting, and awkward postures, to cause increased risk of back disorder. It is possible that effects of WBV may depend on the source of exposure (type of vehicle).

In conclusion, it is safe to assume that heavy physical work that strains, lifting and forceful movements, bending and twisting in awkward positions, whole body vibrations (such as driving heavy trucks that vibrate), and static work pressures (such as sitting at a desk all day), can all contribute to lower back pain.

People with lower back pain and disorder should visit the South Texas Spinal Clinic to be diagnosed and receive appropriate treatment, medications and physical therapy to relieve pain.

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