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Occup Environ Med. 2003 Jul;60(7):497-503.

Course of low back pain among nurses: a longitudinal study across eight years.

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Institute of Hygiene and Applied Physiology, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, Clausiusstr. 25, Switzerland.



To describe the course of low back pain (LBP) among nurses across eight years.


A longitudinal study was performed with a follow up at 1 and 8 years among nurses employed by a large university hospital in Switzerland. A modified version of the Nordic Questionnaire was distributed to obtain information about demographic data, occupational activities, and various aspects of LBP. A clinical examination and several functional tests were used to overcome the problems associated with subjective pain reporting. Nurses having answered the questionnaire on all three occasions (n = 269) were classified into subgroups according to their pain intensity. For each subgroup the course of LBP was recorded.


LBP was highly prevalent with an annual prevalence varying from 73% to 76%. A large percentage (38%) indicated the same intensity of LBP on all three occasions. The proportion of nurses reporting repeated increase of LBP (19%) was approximately as large as the proportion who complained about repeated decrease of LBP (17%).


It became evident that LBP poses a persistent problem among nurses. Over an eight year period almost half of the nurses indicated the same intensity of LBP, thus supporting a recurrent rather than a progressive nature of LBP.

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