Results from a longitudinal study of low back pain in 199 student nurses followed up for 20 months show that 37% reported back pain which lasted for at least 3 consecutive days. The first incidence peaked markedly between 9 and 12 months into training, and coincided with work on wards described by the nurses as "heavy". A combination of personal characteristics are also associated with back pain reports, within this group of nurses. These include attitudes to health as measured by the Health Locus of Control, low levels of trait anxiety, increased neuroticism, and emotional disturbance as measured by the General Health Questionnaire, the strength endurance of the thigh muscles (quadriceps), and height. Recommendations are made for: (1) the consideration of a modified training programme for lifting and handling; and (2) the need for a standardized system of recording back problems as suggested by the DHSS-commissioned Robens Institute (University of Surrey) Report.