Low back pain and lifting: a review of epidemiology and aetiology

Work. 2003;21(2):173-84.


The incidence of low back pain has continued to increase in modern society, despite the considerable amount of scientific research that has aimed to isolate its exact aetiology. Although low back pain is still largely idiopathic, research has identified over one hundred risk factors for the condition. Of these risk factors, manual material handling tasks are perhaps the most widely explored within the biomechanical literature, as these tasks have been associated with high mechanical stresses on the lower back. Numerous technique-related variables have been addressed by researchers, whilst the influence of intra-abdominal pressure has also been considered. In addition to this, the implications of variations in the size and structural composition of the load have also been assessed. However, low back pain continues to pose a significant threat to the financial stability and happiness of millions of people worldwide. In addition, a number of functional work capacity assessment tests use lifting as a method for assessment of return to work condition. Many of these tests are not standardised and do not consider the implications of low back loading. Therefore new research attempts in this area are justified and should aim to identify the extent of the association that exists between the known risk factors and the incidence of low back pain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Humans
  • Lifting / adverse effects*
  • Low Back Pain / epidemiology*
  • Low Back Pain / etiology*
  • Task Performance and Analysis