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Quantifying low back peak and cumulative loads in open and senior sheep shearers in New Zealand: Examining the effects of a trunk harness

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Sheep shearing requires shearers to adopt sustained flexed postures for prolonged periods of time and has been associated with an increased risk of developing low back pain (LBP). However, these postures do not generally result in acute compressive values at L4/L5 exceeding the action limit proposed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, despite the high prevalence of LBP in this occupation. Therefore, it may not be peak loading that is responsible for LBP in this occupation but instead it may be the effect of cumulative loading over the course of a workday. The primary purpose of this research was to quantify the low back cumulative load exposure in 12 sheep shearers with and without the aid of a commercial trunk harness. Results revealed a significant reduction in the magnitude of cumulative compression with the use of the trunk harness and therefore its use may potentially reduce the risk of injury. The use of the trunk harness also reduced the time spent in axially twisted postures, which have been associated with LBP. However, using the trunk harness also resulted in increased time spent in laterally bent postures, which has been associated with increased risk for pain and injury.
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Keywords: Cumulative loading; Force weighting; Low back pain; Sheep shearing

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Faculty of Applied Health Science, Department of Kinesiology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, N2L 3G1, Canada 2: School of Physiotherapy, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

Publication date: August 15, 2006

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