An investigation into the prevalence and occupational risk factors of low back pain in emergency medical services personnel
Emergency medical personnel have a number of occupational risk factors that are listed in the reviewed literature (Davis and Heaney 2000, Volinn 1997 and Andersson 1999) as risk factors for low back pain. Physical lifting and carrying of patients and equipment increases stress on the lower back, while occupational stress and a high level of patient responsibility are mental risk factors (Davis and Heaney, 2000). Emergency medical personnel that spend long hours in response vehicles, ambulances or helicopters are exposed to vibrational stressors and may therefore have an increased risk of low back pain due to this whole body vibration (Palmer et al, 2000). In addition it has been noted that the number of motor vehicle accidents will also increase the risk of low back pain due to mechanical injury (Cassidy et al, 2003). Low back pain could therefore interfere with their ability to carry out their duties, affect their attitude towards patients and colleagues, impact on the level of patient care required of them, and result in increased absenteeism. Persistence of chronic low back with the inability to perform their duties may result in the need to find alternative employment or result in premature dismissal. The objectives of this study were: to determine if emergency medical personnel have a higher risk factor for the development of low back pain due to their occupation than the general population; as well as determine if an increase in the number of years working in the field (i.e. years of exposure) leads to an increased incidence and / or prevalence of low back pain.