Skip to main content

Whole-body vibration and the risk of low back pain and sciatica: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Abstract

Purpose

The aim of this systematic literature review was to evaluate the association between whole-body vibration (WBV) and low back pain (LBP) and sciatica with special attention given to exposure estimates. Moreover, the aim was to estimate the magnitude of such an association using meta-analysis and to compare our findings with previous reviews.

Methods

The authors systematically searched the PubMed (National Library of Medicine, Bethesda), Nioshtic2 (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH, Morgantown), and ScienceDirect (Elsevier, Amsterdam) databases for records up to December 31, 2013. Two of the authors independently assessed studies to determine their eligibility, validity, and possible risk of bias.

Results

The literature search gave a total of 306 references out of which 28 studies were reviewed and 20 were included in the meta-analysis. Exposure to WBV was associated with increased prevalence of LBP and sciatica [pooled odds ratio (OR) = 2.17, 95 % confidence interval (CI) 1.61–2.91 and OR 1.92, 95 % CI 1.38–2.67, respectively]. Workers exposed to high vibration levels had a pooled risk estimate of 1.5 for both outcomes when compared with workers exposed to low levels of vibration. The results also indicate that some publication bias could have occurred especially for sciatica.

Conclusions

This review shows that there is scientific evidence that exposure to WBV increases the risk of LBP and sciatica.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7

References

  1. Altman DG, Bland JM (2003) Interaction revisited: the difference between two estimates. BMJ 326(7382):219

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Anderson R (1992) The back pain of bus drivers. Prevalence in an urban area of California. Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 17(12):1481–1488

  3. Bakker EW, Verhagen AP, van Trijffel E, Lucas C, Koes BW (2009) Spinal mechanical load as a risk factor for low back pain: a systematic review of prospective cohort studies. Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 34(8):E281–E293. doi:10.1097/BRS.0b013e318195b257

  4. Barnekow-Bergkvist M, Hedberg GE, Janlert U, Jansson E (1998) Determinants of self-reported neck-shoulder and low back symptoms in a general population. Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 23(2):235–243

  5. Begg CB, Mazumdar M (1994) Operating characteristics of a rank correlation test for publication bias. Biometrics 50(4):1088–1101

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Bernard B (ed) (1997) Musculoskeletal disorders and workplace factors A critical review of epidemiological evidence for work-related musculoskeletal disorders of the neck, upper extremity and low back. NIOSH, Cincinatti

    Google Scholar 

  7. Bongers PM, Boshuizen HC, Hulshof CT, Koemeester AP (1988a) Back disorders in crane operators exposed to whole-body vibration. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 60(2):129–137

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Bongers PM, Boshuizen HC, Hulshof CT, Koemeester AP (1988b) Long-term sickness absence due to back disorders in crane operators exposed to whole-body vibration. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 61(1–2):59–64

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Bongers PM, Boshuizen HC, Hulshof CT (1990a) Disability due to back disorders in crane operators in a metal construction company. short communication Academisch Proefschrift, Universiteit van Amsterdam

  10. Bongers PM, Hulshof CT, Dijkstra L, Boshuizen HC, Groenhout HJ, Valken E (1990b) Back pain and exposure to whole body vibration in helicopter pilots. Ergonomics 33(8):1007–1026

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Bongers PM, Boshuizen HC, Hulshof CT (1990c) Self reported back pain in drivers of wheel loaders. Academisch Proefschrift, Universiteit van Amsterdam

  12. Boshuizen HC, Bongers PM, Hulshof CT (1990a) Back disorders and occupational exposure to whole-body vibration. Int J Ind Ergon 6(1):55–59

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Boshuizen HC, Bongers PM, Hulshof CT (1990b) An explorative case-referent study of disability due to back disorders in relation to driving. Academisch Proefschrift, Universiteit van Amsterdam

  14. Boshuizen HC, Bongers PM, Hulshof CT (1990c) Self-reported back pain in tractor drivers exposed to whole-body vibration. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 62(2):109–115

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Boshuizen HC, Hulshof CT, Bongers PM (1990d) Long-term sick leave and disability pensioning due to back disorders of tractor drivers exposed to whole-body vibration. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 62(2):117–122

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. Boshuizen HC, Bongers PM, Hulshof CT (1992) Self-reported back pain in fork-lift truck and freight-container tractor drivers exposed to whole-body vibration. Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 17(1):59–65

  17. Bovenzi M (2009) Metrics of whole-body vibration and exposure–response relationship for low back pain in professional drivers: a prospective cohort study. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 82(7):893–917. doi:10.1007/s00420-008-0376-3

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Bovenzi M (2010) A longitudinal study of low back pain and daily vibration exposure in professional drivers. Ind Health 48(5):584–595

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Bovenzi M, Betta A (1994) Low-back disorders in agricultural tractor drivers exposed to whole-body vibration and postural stress. Appl Ergon 25(4):231–241

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. Bovenzi M, Hulshof CT (1999) An updated review of epidemiologic studies on the relationship between exposure to whole-body vibration and low back pain (1986–1997). Int Arch Occup Environ Health 72(6):351–365

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  21. Bovenzi M, Zadini A (1992) Self-reported low back symptoms in urban bus drivers exposed to whole-body vibration. Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 17(9):1048–1059

  22. Bovenzi M, Pinto I, Stacchini N (2002) Low back pain in port machinery operators. J Sound Vib 253(1):3–20

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Bovenzi M et al (2006) An epidemiological study of low back pain in professional drivers. J Sound Vib 298(3):514–539

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Brendstrup T, Biering-Sorensen F (1987) Effect of fork-lift truck driving on low-back trouble. Scand J Work Environ Health 13(5):445–452

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  25. Brown JJ, Wells GA, Trottier AJ, Bonneau J, Ferris B (1998) Back pain in a large Canadian police force. Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 23(7):821–827

  26. Burdorf A, Sorock G (1997) Positive and negative evidence of risk factors for back disorders. Scand J Work Environ Health 23(4):243–256

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  27. Burdorf A, Zondervan H (1990) An epidemiological study of low-back pain in crane operators. Ergonomics 33(8):981–987

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  28. Burdorf A, Govaert G, Elders L (1991) Postural load and back pain of workers in the manufacturing of prefabricated concrete elements. Ergonomics 34(7):909–918

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  29. Burdorf A, Naaktgeboren B, de Groot HC (1993) Occupational risk factors for low back pain among sedentary workers. J Occup Med 35(12):1213–1220

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  30. Burström L, Nilsson T, Wahlström J (2012) Systematiska kunskapsöversikter; 2. Exponering för helkroppsvibrationer och uppkomst av ländryggssjuklighet. In: Torén K, Albin M, Järvholm B (eds) Arbete och Hälsa, vol 46(2). Göteborgs universitet, Göteborg (In Swedish)

  31. Burton AK, Tillotson KM, Symonds TL, Burke C, Mathewson T (1996) Occupational risk factors for the first-onset and subsequent course of low back trouble: a study of serving police officers. Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 21(22):2612–2620

  32. Chernyuk V (1994) Effect of whole body vibration on diseases of the lumbar section of the spine in agricultural machinery opertors. Noise Vib Bull 28:75–77

    Google Scholar 

  33. Dupuis H, Zerlett G (1987) Whole-body vibration and disorders of the spine. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 59(4):323–336

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  34. Duval S, Tweedie R (2000) Trim and fill: a simple funnel-plot-based method of testing and adjusting for publication bias in meta-analysis. Biometrics 56(2):455–463

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  35. Egger M, Davey Smith G, Schneider M, Minder C (1997) Bias in meta-analysis detected by a simple, graphical test. BMJ 315(7109):629–634

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  36. Futatsuka M, Maeda S, Inaoka T, Nagano M, Shono M, Miyakita T (1998) Whole-body vibration and health effects in the agricultural machinery drivers. Ind Health 36(2):127–132

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  37. Heliovaara M (1987) Occupation and risk of herniated lumbar intervertebral disc or sciatica leading to hospitalization. J Chronic Dis 40(3):259–264

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  38. Heliovaara M, Makela M, Knekt P, Impivaara O, Aromaa A (1991) Determinants of sciatica and low-back pain. Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 16(6):608–614

  39. Hoogendoorn WE, van Poppel MN, Bongers PM, Koes BW, Bouter LM (1999) Physical load during work and leisure time as risk factors for back pain. Scand J Work Environ Health 25(5):387–403

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  40. Hoy J et al (2005) Whole body vibration and posture as risk factors for low back pain among forklift truck drivers. J Sound Vib 284(3):933–946

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Ioannidis JP, Patsopoulos NA, Evangelou E (2007) Uncertainty in heterogeneity estimates in meta-analyses. BMJ 335(7626):914–916. doi:10.1136/bmj.39343.408449.80

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Jensen MV, Tuchsen F (1995) Occupation and lumbar disk prolapse. Ugeskr Laeger 157(11):1519–1523

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  43. Johanning E (1991) Back disorders and health problems among subway train operators exposed to whole-body vibration. Scand J Work Environ Health 17(6):414–419

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  44. Johanning E, Landsbergis P, Fischer S, Christ E, Gores B, Luhrman R (2006) Whole-body vibration and ergonomic study of US railroad locomotives. J Sound Vib 298(3):594–600

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Joubert DM, London L (2007) A cross-sectional study of back belt use and low back pain amongst forklift drivers. Int J Ind Ergon 37(6):505–513

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Kelsey JL, Hardy RJ (1975) Driving of motor vehicles as a risk factor for acute herniated lumbar intervertebral disc. Am J Epidemiol 102(1):63–73

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  47. Kelsey JL et al (1984) An epidemiological study of acute prolapsed cervical intervertebral disc. J Bone Joint Surg Am 66(6):907–914

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  48. Kumar A, Varghese M, Mohan D, Mahajan P, Gulati P, Kale S (1999) Effect of whole-body vibration on the low back: a study of tractor-driving farmers in north India. Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 24(23):2506–2515

  49. Kumar A, Mahajan P, Mohan D, Varghese M (2001) IT—information technology and the human interface: tractor vibration severity and driver health: a study from rural India. J Agric Eng Res 80(4):313–328

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Kuorinka I et al (1987) Standardised Nordic questionnaires for the analysis of musculoskeletal symptoms. Appl Ergon 18(3):233–237

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  51. Langauer-Lewowicka H, Harazin B, Brzozowska I, Szlapa P (1996) Evaluation of health risk in machine operators exposed to whole body vibration. Med Pr 47(2):97–106

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  52. Leclerc A, Tubach F, Landre MF, Ozguler A (2003) Personal and occupational predictors of sciatica in the GAZEL cohort. Occup Med (Lond) 53(6):384–391

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  53. Li CY, Sung FC (1999) A review of the healthy worker effect in occupational epidemiology. Occup Med (Lond) 49(4):225–229

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  54. Liira JP, Shannon HS, Chambers LW, Haines TA (1996) Long-term back problems and physical work exposures in the 1990 Ontario Health Survey. Am J Public Health 86(3):382–387

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  55. Lings S, Leboeuf-Yde C (2000) Whole-body vibration and low back pain: a systematic, critical review of the epidemiological literature 1992–1999. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 73(5):290–297

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  56. Lis AM, Black KM, Korn H, Nordin M (2007) Association between sitting and occupational LBP. Eur Spine J 16(2):283–298. doi:10.1007/s00586-006-0143-7

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Macfarlane GJ, Thomas E, Papageorgiou AC, Croft PR, Jayson MI, Silman AJ (1997) Employment and physical work activities as predictors of future low back pain. Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 22(10):1143–1149

  58. Magnusson ML, Pope MH, Wilder DG, Areskoug B (1996) Are occupational drivers at an increased risk for developing musculoskeletal disorders? Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 21(6):710–717

  59. Magora A (1972) Investigation of the relation between low back pain and occupation. 3. Physical requirements: sitting, standing and weight lifting. IMS Ind Med Surg 41(12):5–9

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  60. Manninen P, Riihimak H, Heliovaara M (1995) Incidence and risk factors of low-back pain in middle-aged farmers. Occup Med (Lond) 45(3):141–146

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  61. Masset D, Malchaire J (1994) Low back pain. Epidemiologic aspects and work-related factors in the steel industry. Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 19(2):143–146

  62. Milosavljevic S, Bagheri N, Vasiljev RM, McBride DI, Rehn B (2012) Does daily exposure to whole-body vibration and mechanical shock relate to the prevalence of low back and neck pain in a rural workforce? Ann Occup Hyg 56(1):10–17. doi:10.1093/annhyg/mer068

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Miyashita K, Morioka I, Tanabe T, Iwata H, Takeda S (1992) Symptoms of construction workers exposed to whole body vibration and local vibration. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 64(5):347–351

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  64. Moher D, Liberati A, Tetzlaff J, Altman DG, Group P (2009) Preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses: the PRISMA statement. BMJ 339:b2535. doi:10.1136/bmj.b2535

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Nehring P, Wolf H (1990) Längsschnittstudie zur aufklärung des einfluses von ganzkörperschwingungen auf des gesundheitszustand von werktätigen, die mobile baumaschinen bedienen. TiefB Berufsgenossens 102:453–457

  66. Niedhammer I, Lert F, Marne MJ (1994) Back pain and associated factors in French nurses. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 66(5):349–357

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  67. Noorloos D, Tersteeg L, Tiemessen IJ, Hulshof CT, Frings-Dresen MH (2008) Does body mass index increase the risk of low back pain in a population exposed to whole body vibration? Appl Ergon 39(6):779–785. doi:10.1016/j.apergo.2007.11.002

    Article  Google Scholar 

  68. Nuwayhid IA, Stewart W, Johnson JV (1993) Work activities and the onset of first-time low back pain among New York City fire fighters. Am J Epidemiol 137(5):539–548

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  69. Okunribido OO, Magnusson M, Pope MH (2006) Low back pain in drivers: the relative role of whole-body vibration, posture and manual materials handling. J Sound Vib 298(3):540–555

    Article  Google Scholar 

  70. Okunribido OO, Magnusson M, Pope MH (2008) The role of whole body vibration, posture and manual materials handling as risk factors for low back pain in occupational drivers. Ergonomics 51(3):308–329. doi:10.1080/00140130701637262

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  71. Palmer KT, Griffin MJ, Syddall HE, Pannett B, Cooper C, Coggon D (2003) The relative importance of whole body vibration and occupational lifting as risk factors for low-back pain. Occup Environ Med 60(10):715–721

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  72. Palmer KT et al (2008) Case–control study of low-back pain referred for magnetic resonance imaging, with special focus on whole-body vibration. Scand J Work Environ Health 34(5):364–373

    Article  Google Scholar 

  73. Palmer KT et al (2012) Professional driving and prolapsed lumbar intervertebral disc diagnosed by magnetic resonance imaging: a case–control study. Scand J Work Environ Health 38(6):577–581. doi:10.5271/sjweh.3273

    Article  Google Scholar 

  74. Petitti DB (2001) Approaches to heterogeneity in meta-analysis. Stat Med 20(23):3625–3633. doi:10.1002/sim.1091

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  75. Pietri F, Leclerc A, Boitel L, Chastang JF, Morcet JF, Blondet M (1992) Low-back pain in commercial travelers. Scand J Work Environ Health 18(1):52–58

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  76. Riihimaki H, Tola S, Videman T, Hanninen K (1989) Low-back pain and occupation: a cross-sectional questionnaire study of men in machine operating, dynamic physical work, and sedentary work. Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 14(2):204–209

  77. Riihimaki H, Viikari-Juntura E, Moneta G, Kuha J, Videman T, Tola S (1994) Incidence of sciatic pain among men in machine operating, dynamic physical work, and sedentary work: a 3-year follow-up. Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 19(2):138–142

  78. Rozali A et al (2009) Low back pain and association with whole body vibration among military armoured vehicle drivers in Malaysia. Med J Malays 64(3):197–204

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  79. Sandover J, Gardner L, Stroud P, Robertson N (1994) Some epidemiological issues regarding vibration and tractor driving. Paper presented at the United Kingdom informal group meeting on human response to vibration 19–21 September, Gosport

  80. Saraste H, Hultman G (1987) Life conditions of persons with and without low-back pain. Scand J Rehabil Med 19(3):109–113

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  81. Schwarze S, Notbohm G, Dupuis H, Hartung E (1998) Dose-response relationships between whole-body vibration and lumbar disk disease: a field study on 388 drivers of different vehicles. J Sound Vib 215(4):613–628

    Article  Google Scholar 

  82. Simon-Arndt CM, Yuan H, Hourani LL (1997) Aircraft type and diagnosed back disorders in US Navy pilots and aircrew. Aviat Space Environ Med 68(11):1012–1018

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  83. Skov T, Borg V, Orhede E (1996) Psychosocial and physical risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders of the neck, shoulders, and lower back in salespeople. Occup Environ Med 53(5):351–356

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  84. Smeathers JE, Wright V (1990) New engineering concepts and alternative materials for prostheses. Proc Inst Mech Eng H 204(4):259–261

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  85. Tamrin SB et al (2007) The Association between risk factors and low back pain among commercial vehicle drivers in peninsular Malaysia: a preliminary result. Ind Health 45(2):268–278

    Article  Google Scholar 

  86. Tiemessen IJ, Hulshof CT, Frings-Dresen MH (2008) Low back pain in drivers exposed to whole body vibration: analysis of a dose–response pattern. Occup Environ Med 65(10):667–675. doi:10.1136/oem.2007.035147

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  87. Toroptsova NV, Benevolenskaya LI, Karyakin AN, Sergeev IL, Erdesz S (1995) “Cross-sectional” study of low back pain among workers at an industrial enterprise in Russia. Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 20(3):328–332

  88. van Poppel MN, Koes BW, Deville W, Smid T, Bouter LM (1998) Risk factors for back pain incidence in industry: a prospective study. Pain 77(1):81–86

    Article  Google Scholar 

  89. Vingård E, Nachemsson A (2000) Work-related influences on neck and low back pain. In: Nachemsson A, Jonsson E (eds) The scientific evidence of causes, diagnosis, and treatment. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, Philadelphia, pp 97–126

    Google Scholar 

  90. Walsh K, Varnes N, Osmond C, Styles R, Coggon D (1989) Occupational causes of low-back pain. Scand J Work Environ Health 15(1):54–59

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  91. Waters T, Rauche C, Genaidy A, Rashed T (2007) A new framework for evaluating potential risk of back disorders due to whole body vibration and repeated mechanical shock. Ergonomics 50(3):379–395

    Article  Google Scholar 

  92. Xu Y, Bach E, Orhede E (1997) Work environment and low back pain: the influence of occupational activities. Occup Environ Med 54(10):741–745

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  93. Zimmermann CL, Cook TM (1997) Effects of vibration frequency and postural changes on human responses to seated whole-body vibration exposure. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 69(3):165–179

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

The financial support of the Swedish AFA Insurance is gratefully acknowledged. We also acknowledge comments on the original manuscript in Swedish (Burström et al. 2012).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lage Burström.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Burström, L., Nilsson, T. & Wahlström, J. Whole-body vibration and the risk of low back pain and sciatica: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 88, 403–418 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00420-014-0971-4

Download citation

Keywords

  • Vibration
  • Low back pain
  • Sciatica
  • Meta-analysis
  • Exposure
  • Publication bias