Low back pain– causes and solutions

Part 4 in a Series

In 1997, NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) released a publication called Musculoskeletal Disorders and Workplace Factors, A Critical Review of Epidemiologic Evidence for Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders of the Neck, Upper Extremity, and Low Back http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/97-141/pdfs/97-141.pdf . Although this report over 20 years old, the valuable information about what causes work-related injuries remains current.


One of the most interesting parts of the report is the evidence of work-relatedness to injuries.  From the 40 epidemiologic studies they evaluated, NIOSH judged how strong they felt the evidence was that the injury or musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) was caused by the ergonomic risk factor.   Ergonomic risk factors include:  force, repetition, awkward postures, and static postures to name a few.  The categories they used were:

  • Strong Evidence of Work-Relatedness (+++) – a causal relationship
  • Evidence of Work-Relatedness (++) – convincing epidemiologic evidence for a causal relationship
  • Insufficient Evidence of Work-Relatedness (+/0) – could not conclude the presence or absence of a causal relationship
  • Evidence of No Effect of Work Factors (-) – the specific risk factor is not related to MSDs

What they found for low back pain (LBP) was this:

  1. Evidence of Work-Relatedness (++) between back disorders and heavy physical work
  • For example, baggage handlers perform heavy physical work.
  • Ergonomic interventions that would help would be limits on baggage weight, use of hand carts, and proper lifting techniques.
  • Additional information on baggage handling can be found here:  http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/baggagehandling/index.html


  1. Strong Evidence of Work-Relatedness (+++) between back disorders and forceful movements
  • Construction workers perform forceful movements.
  • A spring assisted or pneumatic finishing tool for drywalling, half bags of cement, and hydraulic lifts are some good ergonomic solutions.
  • More ergonomic solutions can be found here:  http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2007-122/pdfs/2007-122.pdf


  1. Evidence of Work-Relatedness (++) between back disorders and work related awkward postures


  1. Strong Evidence of Work-Relatedness (+++) between back disorders and whole body vibration
  • Crane operators would be at risk here.
  • Tires should be inflated properly, the seat suspension adjusted, and posture should be changed frequently throughout the day.


Proper research in ergonomics helps us determine what things at work cause more injuries.  Future research will clarify evidence even further so that new ergonomic interventions and recommendations can be made.  I hope these posts have helped you determine what causes injury at your work and that you have been able to take the steps needed to correct problems.


2 thoughts on “Low back pain– causes and solutions

  1. Your style is unique compared to other folks I’ve read stuff from. Many thanks for posting when you’ve got the opportunity, Guess I’ll just book mark this site.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s