A prospective cohort study of low-back outcomes and alternative measures of cumulative external and internal vibration load on the lumbar spine of professional drivers

Scand J Work Environ Health. 2021 May 1;47(4):277-286. doi: 10.5271/sjweh.3947. Epub 2021 Feb 1.


Objective: The aim of this study was to compare the performance of alternative measures of cumulative lifetime vibration dose to predict the occurrence of low-back pain (LBP) outcomes in a cohort of 537 professional drivers investigated at baseline and over a two-year follow up period.

Methods: The exposure data obtained in the EU VIBRISKS project were used to calculate alternative measures of either acceleration- (external) or force- (internal) based lifetime vibration doses. Vibration was measured in representative samples of machines and vehicles used by the drivers. Internal lumbar forces were calculated by means of anatomy-, posture-, and anthropometry-based finite element models. The relations of LBP outcomes to alternative measures of lifetime vibration doses were assessed by the generalized estimating equations method.

Results: Metrics of cumulative vibration exposure constructed with either acceleration- or force-based methods were significantly associated with the occurrence of LBP outcomes. A measure of model fitting suggested that force-based doses were better predictors of LBP outcomes than acceleration-based doses. Models with force root-mean-square doses provided a better fit to LBP outcomes than those with force-peak doses.

Conclusions: Measures of internal lumbar forces were better predictors of LBP outcomes than measures of external vibration acceleration although the exposure metrics constructed with the acceleration-based method have the advantage of greater simplicity compared to the force-based method. The differences between the models with force-based doses suggest that the cumulative health effects on the lumbar spine might depend on the integrated resulting total force over the entire exposure time rather than primarily on the force peaks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain*
  • Occupational Diseases*
  • Occupational Exposure* / adverse effects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Vibration / adverse effects