Scand J Work Environ Health 2023;49(7):453-465    pdf | Published online: 15 Aug 2023, Issue date: 01 Oct 2023

Occupational mechanical exposures as risk factor for chronic low-back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis

by Jahn A, Andersen JH, Christiansen DH, Seidler A, Dalbøge A

Objectives The association between occupational mechanical exposures and low-back pain (LBP) has been studied in several systematic reviews. However, no systematic review addressing chronic LBP exists. The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to examine the association between occupational mechanical exposures and chronic LBP.

Methods The study was registered in PROSPERO. We used an existing systematic review to identify articles published before January 2014. For studies published between January 2014 and September 2022, a systematic literature search was conducted in six databases. Two authors independently excluded articles, extracted data, and assessed risk of bias and level of evidence (GRADE). Meta-analyses were conducted using random-effects models comparing highest versus lowest exposure group with sensitivity analyses based on study quality (low/moderate versus high risk of bias), study design (cohort versus case–control), and outcome definition (non-specific LBP versus specific chronic LBP).

Results Twenty-six articles were included. Highest pooled odd ratios (OR) were found for combined mechanical exposures [OR 2.2, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.4–3.6], lifting/carrying loads (OR 1.7, 95% CI 1.4–2.2), and non-neutral postures (OR 1.5, 95% CI 1.2–1.9). For the remaining mechanical exposures (ie, whole-body vibrations, standing/walking, and sitting), OR ranged between 1.0 and 1.4. In the sensitivity analyses, generally, higher pooled OR were found in low/moderate risk of bias studies, case–control studies, and studies of specific chronic LBP.

Conclusions Moderate evidence of an association was found for lifting/carrying loads, non-neutral postures, and combined mechanical exposures. Low or very low evidence was found for whole-body vibrations, standing/walking, and sitting. Studies using standardized exposure definition, metric, and technical measurements are highly warranted.

This article refers to the following texts of the Journal: 2006;32(3):190-197  2002;28(5):314-323  2011;37(1):30-36  2022;48(2):86-98  2013;39(5):431-447
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