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Occup Med (Lond). 2002 Dec;52(8):441-50.

Musculoskeletal disorders in farmers and farm workers.

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MRC Environmental Epidemiology Unit, Community Clinical Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK.


Farming is a physically arduous occupation and this places farm workers at potential risk of musculoskeletal disorders such as osteoarthritis (OA) of the hip and knee, low back pain (LBP), neck and upper limb complaints, and hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). This review considers the epidemiological evidence concerning such risks. The strongest evidence relates to OA of the hip, for which the public health impact is likely to be considerable. There is also weaker, but suggestive evidence that farmers more often have knee OA and LBP than workers in occupations with fewer physical demands. Tractor drivers, in particular, seem to have more LBP. Relatively little information exists on the risks of soft tissue rheumatism in the limbs and neck. For some outcomes, the link with occupational risk factors (such as heavy loading of joints and whole-body vibration) is sufficient to suggest the course that future prevention should take, but for several outcomes more research is first needed.

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