Prevalence of back pain and characteristics of the physical workload of community nurses

Ergonomics. 1996 Feb;39(2):186-98. doi: 10.1080/00140139608964450.


A research project is described that analyses the back pain prevalence and physical working conditions of community nurses. The purpose was to compare the position of nurses working in institutional care with the specific situation of nurses working in the private homes of their patients. The results of a questionnaire showed that the back pain prevalence was relatively high as compared to other occupations and also when compared to other health care sectors. The home care organization is influenced not only by sick leave due to back pain, but also its efficiency is hampered by nurses with back pain who continue to work. It appeared that the total sick leave incidence due to musculoskeletal disorders other than back pain exceeds that due to back pain alone. The physical exposure level not only consisted of frequent and heavy lifting and transferring of patients but also a substantial static workload was present. The onset of back pain seems to result from a gradual build up of overload reaching its maximum. A preventive approach should take these differential loading factors into account. The consequences for preventive interventions are discussed resulting in recommendations towards a (participatory) ergonomic approach. This material forms the baseline of a controlled prospective trial in home care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Back Pain / epidemiology*
  • Back Pain / etiology
  • Community Health Nursing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Low Back Pain / epidemiology
  • Low Back Pain / etiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Weight-Bearing*
  • Workload*