Impact of repetitive manual materials handling and psychosocial work factors on the future prevalence of chronic low-back pain among construction workers

Scand J Work Environ Health. 2002 Oct;28(5):314-23. doi: 10.5271/sjweh.680.


Objectives: This study investigated the influence of manual stone and brick handling and psychosocial work factors on the risk of chronic low-back pain and describes the impact in terms of risk advancement period.

Methods: The Hamburg Construction Worker Study included a longitudinal study among 488 male construction workers. Adjusted prevalence ratios (PR) of chronic low-back pain (>3 months during the last 12 months) according to self-reported worktasks in the baseline survey were estimated with the Cox proportional hazards model.

Results: The 1-year prevalence of chronic low-back pain was 15.4%. Workers with chronic low-back pain in the baseline survey had a higher risk of such pain during the follow-up (PR4.07,95% CI 2.18-7.59). The prevalence in association with laying large lime sandstones for >2 hours per shift (PR 1.80, 95% CI 1.04-3.14) further increased after adjustment for job category (PR 2.69, 95% CI 1.25-5.78), and it advanced the risk by a risk advancement period of 18 years (95% CI 4-39). Workers with low satisfaction with their work achievements had a higher prevalence of chronic low-back pain (PR 2.07, 95% CI 1.10-3.88). Similar risk estimates were observed in the subgroup without chronic low-back pain in the baseline survey. A strong effect of time pressure wasonly present for these workers (high: P R 6.30,95% CI 1.41-28.21).

Conclusions: The results suggest that repetitive work involving bent positions and the manual manipulation of heavy stones increases the risk of future chronic low-back pain. For risk communication, the notion that a 40-year-old construction worker laying large sandstones has the same risk as an unexposed 58-year-old construction worker may be more informative.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Chronic Disease
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Lifting / adverse effects*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Low Back Pain / epidemiology
  • Low Back Pain / etiology*
  • Low Back Pain / psychology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Occupations
  • Prevalence
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*