Background and Aims: Back pain is the most common reason for filing workers' compensation claims in the United States and affects large numbers of workers in many other countries. To evaluate the associations between working hours spent on repeated activities and back pain, data gathered through the 1988 National Health Interview Survey were analysed. The data were also used to identify high risk occupations. Methods: A total of 30074 workers participated in the survey. They were asked to provide information on their job, including the time spent on repeated strenuous physical activities (RSPA) and the time spent on repeated bending, twisting, or reaching (RBTR) on a typical job. A case of back pain was defined as a worker who had back pain every day for a week or more during the past 12 months. Each case was asked to report the cause of back pain. Those who attributed their back pain to repeated activities (RA) or a single accident or injury (AI) were asked to recall whether they performed RA or had the AI at work. Results: Whereas the prevalence of back pain increased as the number of working hours spent on RSPA or RBTR increased, the dose-response relations were not linear for either factor, suggesting the involvement of other unmeasured factors. The estimated overall prevalence of RA back pain was 8.9% among male workers and 5.9% among female workers. "Carpenters" had the highest prevalence (19.2%) and most cases (338 000) among the major occupations of men, and "nursing aides, orclerlies, and attendants" had the highest prevalence (15.2%) and most cases (217 000) among the major occupations of women. Conclusions: The number of hours spent on repeated activities at work was associated with the prevalence of back pain. This study identified high risk occupations for future research and intervention.
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