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Open Access Low Back Pain in Commercial Airline Pilots

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BACKGROUND: In their working life, airline pilots are exposed to particular risk factors that promote nonspecific low back pain (LBP). Because of the varying incidence internationally, we evaluated the point prevalences of acute, subacute, and chronic nonspecific LBP, as well as the current prevalences in German airline pilots. Furthermore, we compared the prevalence to the general German population and to European counterparts.

METHODS: An anonymous online survey of 698 participating German airline pilots was evaluated. The impairment between groups was analyzed. Prevalences from our data were compared to existing data.

RESULTS: The following point prevalences were found: 8.2% acute, 2.4% subacute, 82.7% chronic LBP; 74.1% of all individuals were suffering from current LBP when answered the questionnaire. A total time spent flying greater than 600 h within the last 12 mo was significantly related to acute nonspecific LBP. Individuals with any type of LBP were significantly impaired compared to those unaffected. It was found that German airline pilots suffer more often from current LBP than the general population and have a higher point prevalence of total LBP than their European counterparts.

CONCLUSIONS: The evaluation showed a surprisingly high, previously unidentified, prevalence of nonspecific LBP in German airline pilots. Why German airline pilots suffer more often from LBP remains uncertain. The number of flying hours appears to have a negative effect on developing acute low back pain, but causation cannot be concluded. Other risk factors could not be confirmed.

Albermann M, Lehmann M, Eiche C, Schmidt J, Prottengeier J. Low back pain in commercial airline pilots. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2020; 91(12):940947.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2020

More about this publication?
  • This journal (formerly Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine), representing the members of the Aerospace Medical Association, is published monthly for those interested in aerospace medicine and human performance. It is devoted to serving and supporting all who explore, travel, work, or live in hazardous environments ranging from beneath the sea to the outermost reaches of space. The original scientific articles in this journal provide the latest available information on investigations into such areas as changes in ambient pressure, motion sickness, increased or decreased gravitational forces, thermal stresses, vision, fatigue, circadian rhythms, psychological stress, artificial environments, predictors of success, health maintenance, human factors engineering, clinical care, and others. This journal also publishes notes on scientific news and technical items of interest to the general reader, and provides teaching material and reviews for health care professionals.

    To access volumes 74 through 85, please click here.
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