An Epidemiologic Study of Non-Occupational Lifting as a Risk Factor for Herniated Lumbar Intervertebral Disc

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An epidemiologic case-control study of herniated lumbar intervertebral disc was conducted in Springfield, Massachusetts, New Brunswick, New Jersey, and New York, New York, to evaluate the role of several possible risk factors in the etiology of this disorder. Patients with signs and symptoms of herniated lumbar disc (N =287) were matched to control subjects without back pain by age, sex, source of care, and geographic area. Of the total case-subject group, 177 were confirmed by surgery, computed tomographic scan, myelogram, or magnetic resonance Imaging. This article focuses on non-occupational lifting, an activity not previously reported on. Frequent lifting of objects or children weighing 25 or more pounds with knees straight and back bent was associated with increased risk of herniated lumbar disc. This association was particularly strong among confirmed case subjects (relative risk=3.95). Positive associations among confirmed case subjects were also seen for frequent lifting with arms extended (relative risk=1.87) and twisting while lifting (relative risk=1.90). No associations were found for frequent stretching or carrying. If confirmed in other investigations, these data suggest that instruction in lifting techniques should be extended into the home.

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