"What’s the Bottom Line on Lower Back Disorders?"

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July 2015: Lower Back

Bill Marras PhD, CPE and Lower Back Disorders:



Dr. Marras presented his latest research on lower back disorders at ERGOX 2015. He is the Executive Director & Scientific Director of the Spine Research Institute, and a Professor at Ohio State University. His research is centered on understanding the role of biomechanics in spine disorder causation and its role in the prevention, evaluation, and treatment of spine disorders.

Lower back disorders are the #1 disability worldwide, costing more than cancer with over 100 million lost time work days. Lower back is typically over-treated, with approximately 50% of all surgeries performed on the lower back unsuccessful, 80-90% lower back conditions are misdiagnosed, costing millions of dollars in failed surgeries.




Dr. Marras described the top five causes of lower back disorders:

1. Lifting improperly
2. Making sudden movements
3. Falling down
4. Carrying excessive body weight and heavy loads
5. Poor posture

Dr. Marras emphasized the impact of compressive forces on the spine and lateral shearing (side to side) forces, which are associated with push/pull exertional activities. It is theorized that push/pull may be more dangerous than lifting tasks because of the shearing forces on the disk. He also reminded us that it is not just about the weight of the load but how muscles respond to the load combined with motion (speed/velocity) or acceleration.

Additional research was presented regarding the influence of distraction and fatigue, psychosocial stress, gender and personality on mechanical loading of the lumbar spine. Those individuals who are considered “introverts” have increased muscle activity and co-activation of muscles increasing muscle tension and pain demonstrating the critical link in the mind and body relationship.

Bottom Line: Awareness of the primary causes of lower back pain and the influence of cognitive, physical and psychosocial factors have on chronic (back) pain are indicating the need for a multi-discipline approach to managing lower back disorders more effectively.

What are your thoughts on the latest research in Lower Back Disorders? Are your employees with back injuries benefiting with a multi-discipline medical management plan including ergonomic changes? Let me know what you think!

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