Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health Online-first -article    pdf

https://doi.org/10.5271/sjweh.4170 | Published online: 30 May 2024

The “sweet- and sour-spot” of occupational physical activity for back pain: a prospective accelerometer study among eldercare workers

by Kyriakidis S, Rasmussen CL, Søgaard K, Holtermann A, Rasmussen CDN, Gupta N

Objectives Both high and low levels of occupational physical activity are associated with back pain. Thus, there might be a “sweet- and sour-spot” of occupational physical activity for back pain. Our aim was to investigate if there exists an occupational physical activity “sweet- (lowest risk) and sour-spot” (highest risk) for back pain.

Methods A total of 396 eldercare workers from 20 Danish nursing homes participated. Occupational physical activity was measured between 1–4 working days using thigh-worn accelerometry. Back pain intensity was reported monthly on a scale from 0–10 over 1-year. A zero-inflated mixed-effects model was developed regressing occupational physical activity against back pain, adjusted for confounders. The “sweet- and sour-spot” were defined as the occupational physical activity compositions (sitting, standing, light, and moderate-to-vigorous) associated with the 5% lowest and highest risk for back pain, respectively.

Results The composition associated with the lowest risk of back pain – the “sweet-spot”– consisted of 71% worktime spent sitting, 18% spent standing, 5% spent on light physical activity and 6% spent on moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. The composition associated with highest risk for back pain –the “sour-spot”– consisted of 8% worktime spent sitting, 66% spent standing, 4% spent on light physical activity, and 21% spent on moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.

Conclusions The “sweet-spot” of occupational physical activity for back pain among eldercare workers involves more sitting and light physical activity time, while the “sour-spot” involves more standing and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity time. Research on the occupational physical activity “sweet- and sour-spot” is needed.

This article refers to the following texts of the Journal: 2013;39(2):164-169  2017;43(3):269-278  2021;47(8):609-618
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