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Keywords:

  • low back pain;
  • musculoskeletal disorders;
  • farmers;
  • agriculture

Abstract

Background

Farming continues to rank as one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of low back pain and other musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) among the farmers and to examine the factors associated with occupational back pain. Farmers in a predominately corn and soybean growing region of Kansas served as the study sample.

Methods

Questionnaires were mailed out to 499 active farmers of a Farmers' Cooperative in Southeast Kansas. The self-administered questionnaire was used to determine the prevalence of self-reported symptoms of back pain and other MSDs and to determine the strength of associations between back pain and work factors.

Results

The participation rate was 57.2%. The low back was the anatomical area with the highest prevalence of self-reported work-related pain (37.5%), followed by the shoulders (25.9%), knees (23.6%), and neck (22.4%). Close to 60% of the farmers reported that they experienced farm work-related MSD symptoms in at least one of the nine body areas in the previous year. Nearly one quarter of the farmers reported seeing a physician for their low back symptoms, and one in five farmers had to modify their work habits due to low back symptoms during the previous year.

Conclusions

Low back pain and other musculoskeletal conditions are a significant problem for Kansas farmers. This group of Kansas farmers experienced low back pain at a much higher rate than the general working population and higher than other groups of farmers previously studied. Am. J. Ind. Med. 49:547–556, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.