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Association Between Farm Machinery Operation and Low Back Disorder in Farmers

A Retrospective Cohort Study

Essien, Samuel Kwaku MSc; Bath, Brenna PhD; Koehncke, Niels MD; Trask, Catherine PhD for the Saskatchewan Farm Injury Cohort Study Team

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: June 2016 - Volume 58 - Issue 6 - p e212–e217
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000746

Objective: The association between whole body vibration (WBV) as measured by annual accumulated use of all-terrain vehicles (ATV)/combine/tractor operation and low back disorders (LBDs) among farmers was investigated.

Methods: Saskatchewan Farm Injury Cohort Study data was used. Baseline data were collected in 2007 on the three vehicle types and other factors. Follow-up data on LBD symptoms were collected during 2013 resulting in 1149 samples.

Results: Adjusted for age, education, and gender, LBDs were associated with tractor operation for 1 to 150 hours/year (Relative Risk [RR] = 1.23, 95%CI 1.05 to 1.44), 151 to 400 hours/year (RR = 1.32, 95%CI 114 to 1.54) and 401+ hours/year (RR = 1.34, 95%CI 1.15 to 1.56). Additionally, hip symptoms were associated with tractor operation. Only unadjusted associations were found in combine and ATV operation.

Conclusions: Duration of tractor operation and older age are important predictors of both low back and hip symptoms in farmers.

Department of Community Health and Epidemiology (Mr Essien), Canadian Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture (Dr Koehncke, and Dr Trask), and School of Physical Therapy, University of Saskatchewan (Dr Bath), Saskatoon, SasK, Canada.

Address correspondence to: Catherine Trask, PhD, University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine, Saskatoon, SasK, Canada (

The Saskatchewan Farm Injury Cohort Study Team also includes: Will Pickett PhD, James Dosman MD, Louise Hagel MSc, Robert Brison MD, Andrew Day MSc, Joshua Lawson PhD, BarbaraMarlenga PhD, Lesley Day PhD, and Donald Voaklander PhD.

This research was conducted with support from Canadian Institutes of Health Research Operating Grant 200109MOP-230156—PH1-CEDA-56847 “Saskatchewan Farm Injury Cohort—Phase 2”. This research was undertaken, in part, thanks to funding from the Canada Research Chairs program.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Copyright © 2016 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine