Criteria on nonspecific low-back pain published

The criteria support professionals in the field of occupational medicine in the assessment of the contribution of work-related risk factors to the occurrence of nonspecific low-back pain in individual workers.

Criteria for determining the workrelatedness of nonspecific low-back pain (PDF)

Nonspecific low-back pain occurs widely in workers, especially in physically demanding jobs. In order to ensure adequate working conditions for such workers, it is important to know what work-related factors play a role in the occurrence of such complaints.

A number of work-related factors have been found to be clearly associated with nonspecific lowback pain. However, in practice it is difficult to determine to what extent these factors play a role in the occurrence of these complaints in individual workers. Various guidelines for acceptable physical loads at work have been drawn up on the basis of information from epidemiological studies combined with data derived from experimental investigations. Such guidelines are used as a basis for advice on necessary improvements in working conditions.

Although these guidelines are partly based on epidemiological data, it is often not known whether physical loads exceeding the limits set in the guidelines actually increase the probability of developing nonspecific low-back pain. Moreover, these guidelines cannot be used to determine the relative contribution of various work-related risk factors to the occurrence of low back problems in an individual worker.

The criteria presented in this document have been developed to provide a reliable basis for uniform determination of the role of work-related risk factors in the occurrence of nonspecific low-back pain.

A 3-step plan provides a simple means of calculating the probability of work-relatedness of nonspecific low-back pain on the basis of data on exposure to established risk factors in the work situation. The calculated probability of work-relatedness provides information that can be used to support your professional assessment of the work situation and proposals for improving it in the interests of workers with nonspecific low-back pain.

The criteria are intended to supplement existing guidelines for diagnosis and curative interventions of patients with nonspecific low-back pain. The criteria described in this document are meant in the first instance to be useful instruments for occupational physicians, though they can also be used by other disciplines and will prove useful for the exchange of information between various disciplines.