Low Back Pain (LBP), work and absenteeism

F. Serranheira, M. Sousa-Uva, F. Heranz, F. Kovacs, A. Sousa-Uva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Occupational physical demands are commonly assumed the cause of work-related Low Back Pain (LBP) and absenteeism. OBJECTIVES: To analyse relationships between LBP at work, physical demands and absenteeism. METHODS: Workers filled out a questionnaire on socio-demographic and work-related factors, general health, LBP (number of episodes in a 12-month period, pain severity and intensity), and occupational hazards related with physical demands. RESULTS: 735 workers completed the questionnaire (male n = 359). A high proportion of workers n = 507 (69%), from different occupational backgrounds, reported at least one LBP episode in the previous 12-month period. The highest ratio of subjects with more than 6 episodes of LBP per year was found among public services employees (31.8%) and the lowest ratio among administrative workers (10.3%). The highest ratio of workers (39%) were classified as sedentary workers, 34% of workers having a low or moderate level of physical demands in their work, and 27% reported high levels of physical demands in their work. There was a 4 % absenteeism rate in a 12-month period, which was significantly higher in the group with physically demanding work. Those subjects with higher physical requirements at work have increased odds of having more than 3 episodes of LBP during the previous year (p < 0.05) in comparison with subjects with more sedentary jobs and those with low or moderate physical demands. High intensity work, compared to sedentary work, is associated with an increased probability of being absent of work because of LBP in a previous 12-month period (OR = 3.12; CI 1.23-7.89; p = 0.016). CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest there is an association between highly physically demanding jobs, LBP and absenteeism. These results may contribute to the improvement of LBP assessment and prevention programs in Occupational Health Services.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)463-469
Number of pages7
JournalWORK: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment & Rehabilitation
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • ergonomics
  • occupational disorders
  • Occupational health


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