Evaluating the inclinometer as a novel approach to estimate spinal compression for epidemiological and occupational field studies of back injuries

Almost 200,000 thousand workers are hurt on the job every year in BC. The majority of incidents involve musculoskeletal injuries, with back injuries accounting for approximately 25 per cent of all work claims. To reduce the occurrence of back injuries, we need a better understanding of the aspects of a job that are associated with the risk of injury. Most research is done with a small sample of workers in a controlled test environment. However, in order to have representative and generalizable results about the risk of injury, researchers require exposure data on large numbers of individuals at work so that relationships can be observed. To do this, they need accurate, inexpensive and easy-to-use tools to take out into the field. Spinal compression is a major risk factor for back injury. Robin Van Driel’s research is investigating the potential of estimating spinal compression by using an inclinometer (usually used for posture analysis), instead of the traditional electromyography method, to measure spinal compression among workers in five heavy industries in BC. By developing a better understanding of the work factors associated with the risk of injury, this research will help reduce the large personal and economic burden associated with low back disorders, and could be applied to many other occupational groups with similar risk factors.