Article Text

The relative importance of whole body vibration and occupational lifting as risk factors for low-back pain
  1. K T Palmer1,
  2. M J Griffin2,
  3. H E Syddall1,
  4. B Pannett1,
  5. C Cooper1,
  6. D Coggon1
  1. 1MRC Environmental Epidemiology Unit, Southampton, UK
  2. 2Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr K T Palmer
 MRC Environmental Epidemiology Unit, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK;


Aims: To explore the impact of occupational exposure to whole body vibration (WBV) on low back pain (LBP) in the general population and to estimate the burden of LBP attributable to occupational WBV in comparison with that due to occupational lifting.

Methods: A questionnaire including sections on WBV at work, LBP, and potential risk factors was mailed to a community sample of 22 194 men and women of working age. Sources and durations of exposure to occupational WBV were ascertained for the past week and personal vibration doses (eVDV) were estimated. Analysis was confined to subjects reporting exposures in the past week as typical of their work. Associations of LBP with eVDV, driving industrial vehicles, and occupational lifting were explored by logistic regression and attributable numbers were calculated.

Results: Significant associations were found between daily lifting of weights greater than 10 kg at work and LBP, troublesome LBP (which made it difficult to put on hosiery), and sciatica (prevalence ratios 1.3 to 1.7); but the risk of these outcomes in both sexes varied little by eVDV and only weak associations were found with riding on industrial vehicles. Assuming causal associations, the numbers of cases of LBP in Britain attributable to occupational WBV were estimated to be 444 000 in men and 95 000 in women. This compared with an estimated 940 000 male cases and 370 000 female cases of LBP from occupational lifting.

Conclusions: The burden of LBP in Britain from occupational exposure to WBV is smaller than that attributable to lifting at work.

  • back pain
  • lifting
  • occupational
  • population
  • vibration
  • eVDV, estimated vibration dose value
  • LBP, low back pain
  • PR, prevalence ratio
  • WBV, whole body vibration

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