Objectives Controversies have long existed on causes for low back pain, and the role of occupational mechanical exposures, e.g. lifting has been debated for several decades. The aim of this study was to investigate if lifting is a risk factor for low back surgery.
Method The study is based on data from the Musculoskeletal Research Database at the Danish Ramazzini Centre, comprising nine previous studies on musculoskeletal symptoms in working populations, performed from 1993 to 2005. The study was limited to participants aged 18–65, yielding 39 258 individuals, 22 669 women (58%) and 16 589 men (42%). Mean age at baseline was 42.9 years. Occupational mechanical exposures were assessed by a job exposure matrix linking job title to expert ratings of e.g. lifting, which was divided into three groups based on daily lifting: 0 kg (representing minimal exposure), 1–1000 kg, and >1000 kg. Cases of first time surgery for herniated lumbar disc (n = 1025) or lumbar fusion (n = 447) until 2012 were identified in the Danish National Patient Register. In preliminary analyses, risk estimates were obtained by logistic regression analysis, adjusting for age, gender, and study.
Results An exposure response relationship was seen for herniated lumbar disc: OR=1.2 (95% CI 1.0–1.4) for 1–1000 kg/day, and OR=2.2 (1.9–2.6) for >1000 kg/day. For lumbar fusion: OR=1.5 (1.2–2.0) for 1–1000 kg/day, and OR=2.8 (2.4–3.5) for >1000 kg/day.
Conclusions Lifting was associated with later operations for both herniated lumbar disc and lumbar fusion. In further analyses, life style factors and occupational psychosocial exposures will be addressed.
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