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New research shows that nearly 40 million American workers suffer from chronic lower back pain

MONDAY, May 13, 2019 (HealthDay News) — If your back aches while on the job, you have plenty of company: New research shows that nearly 40 million American workers suffer from chronic lower back pain.

In all, that’s more than a quarter of the workforce reporting lower back pain severe enough to affect their ability to work. As striking as these findings are, the researchers believe that many more workers suffer from lower back pain than the study captured.

“A lot of the cases of back pain have been attributed to work, but most workers haven’t even discussed with their doctor whether it might be related to work,” said lead author Dr. Sara Luckhaupt, a medical officer at the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

In addition, many workers miss work because of the pain or change jobs because of it, she said.

Luckhaupt said that both men and women reported suffering from lower back pain. Sufferers were more likely to be 45 to 64. Obesity can also contribute to lower back pain, she added.

The greatest number of workers with lower back pain worked in construction, building maintenance and grounds cleaning, Luckhaupt said, “so, jobs that require a lot of manual labor.”

In addition, people whose jobs requires lifting, pulling or standing reported more lower back pain, Luckhaupt said.

One specialist said it’s difficult to determine if someone’s lower back pain is really work-related.

“Work environment can worsen back pain, but often it’s difficult to assign causative factors to the back pain in the absence of a specific incident,” said Dr. Qusai Hammouri, an orthopedic surgeon at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City.

“So, it’s difficult to say if work caused your back pain, or you had back pain and then it got worse as you worked more,” said Hammouri, who wasn’t involved with the research.

For the study, Luckhaupt and her colleagues surveyed more than 19,000 adults in 2015. The participants were asked whether they had lower back pain and if it was work-related, and whether their pain affected their work.

 

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