Low back pain and risk factors for low back pain in car drivers

Gallais, Lenka (2008) Low back pain and risk factors for low back pain in car drivers. University of Southampton, Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, Doctoral Thesis , 306pp.


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The cause of low back pain in populations of professional drivers is uncertain. A literature review
revealed factors that seem to be associated with low back pain (e.g. physical factors: exposure to
whole body-vibration, prolonged sitting posture, frequent lifting, pushing and pulling, lack of physical
fitness; psychosocial factors: job satisfaction or stress; individual factors: age, gender,
anthropometrics, tobacco, alcohol consumption, etc.).
This thesis investigates the occurrence of back pain in professional car drivers – a group found to
be not focussed upon in previous epidemiological studies. The thesis seeks to advance
understanding of response relationships between risk factors and low back pain in populations of
car drivers (209 taxi drivers and 365 police drivers) and 485 non-drivers. A longitudinal study with
cross-sectional baseline combined with field measurement of driving in selected vehicles was
performed to investigate the occurrence of musculoskeletal problems (mainly low back pain) and
the relationship between risk factors and low back pain experienced for at least one day during the
past 12 months in the two populations of professional drivers (taxi drivers and police drivers) and
professional non-drivers.
The cross-sectional baseline of the longitudinal study revealed that 45% (38.3-51.7%) of taxi
drivers, 53% (48-58.6%)of police drivers and 46% (41-50.1%) of police non-drivers reported low
back pain for at least one day during the past 12-months (p = 0.09). The prevalence of low back
pain in the non-driving population of police employees fell within prevalence range reported by
professional car drivers in this study and in previous epidemiological studies. The cross-sectional
study revealed risk factors associated with the prevalence of low back pain (i.e., stature, previous
physical demands, increased psychosomatic distress, daily and cumulative driving in taxi drivers;
age, lifting, bending, increase psychosomatic distress in police drivers; stature, bending, increased
psychosomatic distress in police non-drivers).
Measurements of whole-body vibration in selected taxi and police vehicles revealed frequencyweighted
accelerations in the dominant vibration direction (i.e., z-axis) to be 0.47 ms-2 r.m.s. in taxi
vehicles and 0.58 ms-2 r.m.s. in police vehicles.
A study of cumulative exposure to whole-body vibration in a group of taxi drivers pointed to a
possible overestimation of their self-estimated duration of vibration exposure by 31% on average.
The longitudinal study revealed a lower incidence of low back pain in taxi drivers than in both
police drivers and police non-drivers (p = 0.02). The difference might be attributed to a different
approach to low back pain in taxi drivers who lose income if unable to work. An alternative
explanation for increased low back pain among police employees could be that taxi drivers with low
back pain leave their profession and were excluded from the follow-up study – a healthy worker
The longitudinal study revealed that increased psychosomatic distress was a risk factor
associated with the development of new episodes of low back pain in all three of the studied
populations (i.e. taxi drivers and police drivers and non-drivers).
In police drivers, increased daily duration of driving was a risk factor for the development of low
back pain. Although the results point to increased incidence of low back pain with increasing
duration of daily driving, non-drivers were at a similar risk of developing of low back pain. Plausible
explanations for this finding include ergonomic factors that were present for both the drivers and the
non-drivers (e.g., the duration of sitting or duration in a constrained posture) and the presence of
other risk factors not investigated in the study but associated with increased incidence of low back
pain in non-drivers.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine
T Technology > TL Motor vehicles. Aeronautics. Astronautics
Divisions : University Structure - Pre August 2011 > Institute of Sound and Vibration Research > Human Sciences
ePrint ID: 64568
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
May 2008Made publicly available
Date Deposited: 08 Jan 2009
Last Modified: 27 Mar 2014 18:46
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/64568

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