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Annu Rev Biomed Eng. 2002;4:49-68. Epub 2002 Mar 22.

Spine ergonomics.

Author information

1
Liberty Safework Research Centre, Department of Environmental and Occupational Medicine, University of Aberdeen, AB25 2ZP Scotland, United Kingdom. m.pope@biomed.abdn.ac.uk

Abstract

Occupational low back pain (LBP) is an immense burden for both industry and medicine. Ergonomic and personal risk factors result in LBP, but psychosocial factors can influence LBP disability. Epidemiologic studies clearly indicate the role of mechanical loads on the etiology of occupational LBP. Occupational exposures such as lifting, particularly in awkward postures; heavy lifting; or repetitive lifting are related to LBP. Fixed postures and prolonged seating are also risk factors. LBP is found in both sedentary occupations and in drivers as well as those involved in manual materials handling. Any prolonged posture will lead to static loading of the soft tissues and cause discomfort. Standing and sitting have specific advantages and disadvantages for mobility, exertion of force, energy consumption, circulatory demands, coordination, and motion control. The seated posture leads to inactivity causing an accumulation of metabolites, accelerating disk degeneration and leading to disk herniation. Driver's postures can also lead to musculoskeletal problems. Workers in a driving environment are often subjected to postural stress leading to back, neck, and upper extremity pain. This exacerbates the problems due to the vibration. Prevention is by far the treatment of choice. Improved muscle function can be preventative. Poor coordination and motor control systems are as important as endurance and strength. Fixed postures should be avoided. Seats offering good lumbar support should be used in the office. A suspension seat should be used in vehicles whenever possible. Heavy and awkward lifting should be avoided and lifting aids should be made available. Workers should report LBP as early as possible and seek medical advice if they think occupational exposure is harming them. The combined effects of the medical community, labor, and management are required to cause some impact on this problem.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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