Prevalence of low back pain among intensive care nurses: A meta-analysis

Nurs Crit Care. 2021 Nov;26(6):476-484. doi: 10.1111/nicc.12646. Epub 2021 May 25.


Background: Low back pain (LBP) is a ubiquitous health problem affecting most of healthcare staff. However, there have been not effort to derive robust prevalence estimates of LBP among intensive care unit (ICU) nurses.

Aims and objectives: To determine the prevalence of LBP among ICU nurses.

Methods: A systematic review and meta-analysis was conducted. Five databases were searched: Web of Science, PubMed, MEDLINE (Ovid), Embase, and CINHAL databases. Original research that reported the prevalence of LBP among ICU nurses using a 12-month recall period were included. In order to assess methodological quality, we used a quality rating system which is specifically developed for LBP studies. Cochran's Q and the I2 test were applied to assess heterogeneity. Subgroup analysis was applied to identify factors that may contribute to heterogeneity. Presence of potential publication bias was assessed by using Egger's test and visual inspection of the symmetry in funnel plots.

Results: Twenty-seven studies reporting data from 2004 to 2020 on the prevalence of LBP in a defined ICU nurses were included (participants:6258; range: 3-1345). Twenty-one (77.8%) studies were of "high" quality. Among the included studies, the lowest and the highest prevalence were found to be 34.5% and 100.0%, respectively. Meta-analysis of included studies yielded a pooled prevalence of 12-month LBP at 76.0% (95% CI, 69.0%-81.8%). (I2 = 96.0%, Chi-squared = 722, P-value < .01).

Conclusion: LBP is prevalent among ICU nurses. Greater attention is urgently needed to address this burdensome health problem among ICU nurses, particularly with an emphasis to develop preventive strategies.

Relevance to clinical practice: The results of our meta-analysis have important consequences for ICU nurse managers. Our finding of high prevalence rate of LBP among ICU nurses suggests that more attention should be devoted to develop and apply prevention programs for ICU nurses to manage this global issue.

Keywords: intensive care; low-back pain; meta-analysis; nursing; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Critical Care
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Low Back Pain* / epidemiology
  • Prevalence