Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The greatest risk for low-back pain among newly educated female health care workers; body weight or physical work load?

Jette Nygaard Jensen1, Andreas Holtermann1, Thomas Clausen1, Ole Steen Mortensen12, Isabella Gomes Carneiro1 and Lars Louis Andersen1*

Author Affiliations

1 National Research Centre for the Working Environment, Lersø Parkalle 105, DK 2100, Copenhagen, Denmark

2 Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Bispebjerg University Hospital, Bispebjerg Bakke, DK 2400, Copenhagen, Denmark

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2012, 13:87  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-13-87

Published: 6 June 2012



Low back pain (LBP) represents a major socioeconomic burden for the Western societies. Both life-style and work-related factors may cause low back pain. Prospective cohort studies assessing risk factors among individuals without prior history of low back pain are lacking. This aim of this study was to determine risk factors for developing low back pain (LBP) among health care workers.


Prospective cohort study with 2,235 newly educated female health care workers without prior history of LBP. Risk factors and incidence of LBP were assessed at one and two years after graduation.


Multinomial logistic regression analyses adjusted for age, smoking, and psychosocial factors showed that workers with high physical work load had higher risk for developing LBP than workers with low physical work load (OR 1.8; 95% CI 1.1–2.8). In contrast, workers with high BMI were not at a higher risk for developing LBP than workers with a normal BMI.


Preventive initiatives for LBP among health care workers ought to focus on reducing high physical work loads rather than lowering excessive body weight.

Prospective cohort study; Low back pain; Physical work load; Health care work; Musculoskeletal disorders; Body mass index