Study: vehicle vibration not responsible for back pain

| Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Prolonged exposure to the vibrations experienced in a moving vehicle has long been blamed for high rates of back problems among professional truckdrivers. But a new study suggests neither the vibrations nor other factors relating to driving are to blame.

"Not the slightest indication," Michelle Battie, a professor in the faculty of rehabilitation medicine at the University of Alberta, told news reporters. "There wasn't even a tendency. There wasn't the slightest trend for greater pathology or (disc) generation in drivers versus non-drivers."

The article, published Oct. 15 in the medical journal The Lancet, says back trouble is reported more often in people who drive for a living than in any other occupational group. Numerous studies published have pointed to the whole body vibration experienced in moving vehicles as being the basis of the problem.

But it's been a hard thesis to prove, says Battie, because it is so difficult to design a study that would look at whole body vibration in isolation.

The study found that while driving for long periods may exacerbate symptoms of back problems, it doesn't damage the disc. Other factors of driving that could be detrimental to back health could "confound" or muddy the results - such as drivers who spend extended periods sitting in one position, in cramped quarters, and often do a lot of heavy lifting.

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