Comparison of four peak spinal loading exposure measurement methods and their association with low-back pain
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OBJECTIVES: This paper examines the performance of 4 different methods of estimating peak spinal loading and their relationship with the reporting of low-back pain. METHODS: The data used for this comparison was a subset of subjects from a case-referent study of low-back-pain reporting in the automotive industry, in which 130 random referents and 105 cases (or job-matched proxies) were studied. The peak load on the lumbar spine was determined using a biomechanical model with model inputs coming from a detailed self-report questionnaire, a task-based check list, a video digitization method, and a posture and load sampling technique. RESULTS: The methods were directly comparable through a common metric of newtons or newton meters of spinal loading in compression, shear, or moment modes. All the methods showed significant and substantial associations with low-back pain in all modes (odds ratios 1.6-2.3). The intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC) showed strong similarities between the checklist and video digitized techniques (ICC 0.84-0.91), moderate similarities between these techniques and the work sampling method (ICC 0.49-0.52), and poor correlations (ICC 0.16-0.40) between the self-report questionnaire and the observer recorded measures. CONCLUSIONS: While all the methods detected significant odds ratios, they cannot all be used interchangeably for risk assessment at the individual level. Peak spinal compression, moment, and shear are important risk factors for low-back pain reporting, no matter which measurement method is used. Questionnaires can be used for large-scale studies. At the individual level a task-based checklist provides biomechanical model inputs at lower cost and equal performance compared with the criterion video digitization system.
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