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Spine J. 2010 Mar;10(3):262-72. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2009.12.023.

Causal assessment of occupational standing or walking and low back pain: results of a systematic review.

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Clinical Epidemiology Program, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, 725 Parkdale Ave., Ottawa, ON K1Y 4E9, Canada.



Low back pain (LBP) is a widespread musculoskeletal condition that frequently occurs in the working-age population. Numerous occupational physical activities have been implicated in its etiology.


To conduct a systematic review establishing a causal relationship between occupational standing or walking and LBP.


Systematic review of the literature.


Studies reporting an association between occupational standing or walking and LBP.


Numerical association between exposure to standing or walking and the presence of LBP.


A systematic review was performed to identify, evaluate, and summarize the literature related to establishing a causal relationship, according to Bradford-Hill criteria for causality, between occupational standing or walking and LBP. A search was conducted using MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, Cochrane Library, and Occupational Safety and Health database, gray literature, hand-searching occupational health journals, reference lists of included studies, and expert knowledge. Evaluation of methodological quality was performed using a modified Newcastle-Ottawa Scale.


This search yielded 2,766 citations. Eighteen studies met the inclusion criteria. Five were high-quality studies related to standing, and two were high-quality studies related to walking. For occupational standing and LBP, there was moderate to strong evidence against the association criterion, the only study examining dose response did not support this criterion, four studies examining temporality failed to support this criterion, and only one study discussed the biological plausibility criterion. For occupational walking and LBP, there was moderate evidence against a causal relationship with respect to the association, temporality, dose response, and biological plausibility criteria. No studies assessed the experiment criterion for these activities.


A summary of existing studies was not able to find any high-quality studies that satisfied more than two of the Bradford-Hill causation criteria for occupational standing or walking and LBP. Based on the evidence reviewed, it is unlikely that occupational standing or walking is independently causative of LBP in the populations of workers studied.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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