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Does Self-Assessed Physical Capacity Predict Development of Low Back Pain Among Health Care Workers? A 2-Year Follow-up Study

Rasmussen, Charlotte D. N., MSc*; Jørgensen, Marie B., PhD*; Clausen, Thomas, PhD*; Andersen, Lars L., PhD*; Strøyer, Jesper, PhD; Holtermann, Andreas, PhD*

doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e31826981f3
Occupational Health/Ergonomics

Study Design. Prospective cohort study.

Objective. To determine the prognostic value of self-assessed physical capacity for the development of low back pain (LBP) among female health care workers without LBP.

Summary of Background Data. High physical capacities in terms of strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance are assumed to prevent LBP among persons with high physical work demands. However, the few existing studies investigating this relationship show contrasting findings.

Methods. Female health care workers answered a questionnaire about physical capacity in 2004, and days with LBP in 2005 and 2006. The odds ratios (ORs) for developing nonchronic (1–30 d of the past 12 mo) and persistent (>30 d of the past 12 mo) LBP in 2006 from self-assessed physical capacity were investigated with multiadjusted logistic regressions among female health care workers without LBP in 2005 (n = 1612).

Results. Health care workers with low and medium physical capacity had increased risk of developing nonchronic LBP (OR = 1.52 [CI = 1.05–2.20] and OR = 1.37 [CI = 1.01–1.84], respectively), and health care workers with low physical capacity had an increased risk of developing persistent LBP (OR = 2.13 [CI = 1.15–3.96]), referencing those with high physical capacity.

Conclusion. Self-assessed low physical capacity is a strong predictor for developing nonchronic and persistent LBP among pain-free female health care workers. Future intervention studies should investigate whether increased physical capacity, for example, through exercise training prevents development of LBP among female health care workers.

The risk of developing low back pain on 2-year follow-up among pain-free health care workers from self-assessed physical capacities was investigated with multiadjusted logistic regressions. The study shows that low physical capacity is a strong predictor for nonchronic and persistent low back pain among pain-free female health care workers.

*National Research Centre for the Working Environment, Copenhagen Ø, Denmark; and

Administrative headquarter of The Capital Region of Denmark, Department of Financial Affairs, Data Unit, Hillerød, Denmark.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Charlotte D. N. Rasmussen, MSc, National Research Centre for the Working Environment, Lersø Parkalle 105, DK 2100, Copenhagen Ø, Denmark; E-mail:

Acknowledgment date: April 12, 2012. Revision date: June 22, 2012. Acceptance date: July 10, 2012.

The manuscript submitted does not contain information about medical device(s)/drug(s).

No funds were received in support of this work.

No benefits in any form have been or will be received from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this manuscript.

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.