Heavy lifting in early life can cause back problems

Men lifting solar panels

Young adults doing jobs that involve heavy lifting are at a higher risk of developing back pain in later life, according to a Finnish study.

Tea Lallukka from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health surveyed 738 Finnish men and women in 1986, when they were between 18 and 24 years old, and again 20 years later.

The participants were asked whether they had done any heavy, medium or little-to-no heavy physical work as young adults.

They were then asked whether, in middle age, they’d had back pain lasting more than a week during the previous year.

Double the risk of back pain

The likelihood of radiating back pain in middle age more than doubled for men who reported heavy physical work as young adults, compared to men whose jobs had involved little-to-no physical work.

For women, the risk was doubled in those who reported at least medium physical work and quadrupled in those who had done heavy work.

While there was a clear link between heavy physical work and radiating back pain, the study didn’t find any connection between it and localised lower back pain.

Effects of physical labour

About 80% of adults experience some form of back pain at some point in their lifetime, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Back pain is one the most common causes of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed workdays.

The results from the study highlight the need for people to consider ways to prevent the adverse consequences of physical workload for the lower back, says Lallukka.

The study was published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.


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