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Advice, Devices Ineffective In Preventing Worker Back Pain

Armen Hareyan's picture

Back pain is the number one cause of worker-compensation complaints, second only to the common cold in causing lost workdays.

Consequently, employers and regulators have pushed training programs to teach specific lifting methods, and some recommend or require the use of assistive devices such as hoists for hospital workers. However, a new review of the research on lifting advice and handling devices has found that they do not prevent work-related back pain.

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"According to the studies we have so far, it seems that this is not effective," said lead author Kari-Pekka Martimo, of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Helsinki. He and his colleagues examined data from more than 18,000 employees in 11 studies. Some studies looked at advice or assistive devices alone and some looked at combining both, but the combinations did not prove effective either.

The review appears in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.

The advice and devices did not prevent back pain or reduce disability claims or sick leave.

According to Martimo, one explanation for the negative findings could be that "safer" lifting techniques do not really exist