Study points to focus areas for preventing low back, upper extremity injuries
Researchers studied and compared trends from 2002 and 2006 to see what risk factors are consistently related to self-reports of back and upper extremity, or arm, pain. Their findings are being published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
The most recent research was based on 90-minute, face-to-face interviews with more than 1,500 U.S. workers. It showed several physical and psychosocial risk factors for MSDs.
Both the 2002 and 2006 studies identified the physical risks of heavy lifting and repetitive hand movement as being significantly related to self-reported back pain and arm pain. The researchers were not sure why jobs with exposure to repetitive or stressful hand movements or awkward hand postures would be related to an increased risk of back pain.
Several psychosocial factors were associated with back pain, especially hurt at work and work stress. In fact, the authors said the latest results indicate work stress might be a more significant predictor of risk than previously thought and warrants further research.
The psychosocial factor of job satisfaction was not as strong a predictor of back pain but still a significant predictor for some categories. The factor, work time -- having enough time to finish the work, was cited as a significant risk for both back pain and pain in arms.
The combined effects of hand movements and work stress seemed to result in back pain, the researchers said.
The interaction between heavy lifting and work stress on arm pain was statistically significant in the 2006 study, although it was negative in 2002. Also, three risk factors -- supervisor support, safety climate, and work time -- showed a stronger relationship to arm pain in the most recent analysis.
Finally, the researchers said that workers are less at risk of upper extremity MSDs if they feel they have freedom to control their work by deciding how to do the work.
The authors said the findings can be used by work designers to target ergonomic and workplace interventions at the factors that consistently are shown to be associated with increased risk of developing work-related MSDs.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
May 12, 2011
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