Study Links Farming to Back Pain

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) A new study from the University of Iowa shows the longer farmers stay on their tractors, the higher their risk of serious health problems.

One farmer told TV9 that he's not surprised because the same thing has happened to him over the years.

"I had back surgery two years ago," said Fuhrmeister. "I had knee surgery a year ago. He told me then he'd give me two years and he'd have to replace that knee."

But with so many years of experience on the farm, it's become his way of life. He's been working on it since he was 18.

"I'm 64 years old," said Jerry Fuhrmeister. "Time is getting near all the time."

He said out of all his vehicles, the combine is the smoothest. Research backs him up, too. The study showed that combines have the lowest level of vibration because the mass of it absorbs most of the shaking.

"The terrain is much rougher so we see all these mechanical shocks that are responsible for the short duration of use before you reach the daily action exposure lengths," said University of Iowa Researcher Nate Fethke.

The study showed pain could stem from just about any equipment from forklifts to tractors. But researchers found vibrations most often come from the use of all-terrain-vehicles. The study pointed out even how old the equipment is can be a factor.

"People think of farming and they see these big, bright, fancy bright new machines with this fancy technology but in reality there are a large number of older machines that are still in the service 20, 30 and 40 years old in some cases," said Fethke. "Older machines may expose people to greater levels of vibration."

While Fuhrmeister may be used to the hard labor, the pain sometimes changes his mind.

"You know, when I was in high school I thought this was all I wanted to do. But the older I get, I think man, there's got to be something else out there that I could've done other than this," said Fuhrmeister.

To take a look at the full study, check out the PDF file associated with this story.