Study explores treatment for farmer back problems

Farmers get more back pain than average, and have a harder time accessing treatment

If your back is aching after long hours on the tractor, or in the combine or truck, researchers at the University of Saskatchewan want to hear from you.

They also want to help.

Farmers have higher rates of back pain than other occupations, and they’re also likely to have a harder time getting help for it, says Catherine Trask, director of the University of Saskatchewan’s Ergonomics Laboratory.

“One of the tricky things about back pain on the farm is that folks are a long way from hands-on care,” said Trask.

“The time and gas it takes to get to the nearest physio can make appointments hard to get to. That is why it is important to find innovative treatments that work with real people’s lifestyles.”

U of S researcher Stephen Milosavljevic knows the problem well. He has treated back pain in many farmers while working as a physiotherapist in New Zealand.

“I was seeing farmers regularly who were sitting all day and complaining of back pain and they are looking for more than temporary relief,” he said.

Milosavljevic has now teamed up with an international group to test a highly accessible and self-directed way of dealing with back pain — walking.

The research team, which wants to compare some different approaches to treating back pain, is looking to recruit farmers who are over the age of 18 and have experienced back pain for at least three months.

Participants will receive two individual appointments with a physiotherapist, during which they receive an evaluation of their lower back, education about back pain and exercise, and specialized advice to manage their back pain.

The study will compare an education-only approach to education plus a physiotherapist-directed walking program using a pedometer.

If you are interested in participating, please contact study co-ordinator Angelica Lang in Saskatoon at 639-480-5595 or via email at [email protected].

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