Background: Low back pain is common among nurses. Previous studies have shown that the risk of low back pain increases rapidly with greater amounts of physical work and psychological stress, but is inversely related to leisure activities. However, these previous studies were predominantly retrospective in design and not many took account of three factors simultaneously.
Aims: This 12-month prospective study examined the relationships between work activities, work stress, sedentary lifestyle and new low back pain.
Methods: A total of 144 nurses from six Hong Kong district hospitals completed a face-to-face baseline interview, which was followed-up by a telephone interview. The main study measures were demographic characteristics, work activities, work stress, physical leisure activities and the nature of new low back pain during the 12-month follow-up period. Level of work stress, quality of relationships at work, level of enjoyment experienced at work, and work satisfaction were self-reported.
Results: Fifty-six (38.9%) nurses reported experiencing new low back pain. Sedentary leisure time activity was not associated with new low back pain. Being comparatively new on a ward (adjusted relative risk 2.90), working in bending postures (adjusted relative risk 2.76) and poor work relationships with colleagues (adjusted relative risk 2.52) were independent predictors of new low back pain.
Conclusion: The findings of this study suggest that low back pain is a common problem in the population of nurses in Hong Kong. Being comparatively new on a ward, bending frequently during work and having poor work relationships with colleagues are independent predictors of new low back pain. Training for high-risk work activities and ergonomic assessment of awkward work postures are essential. Moreover, relaxation and team-building workshops for nurses, especially those who are less experienced in the type of work on their current ward, are recommended.