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Farm Work Is A Pain
Back pain is a common complaint from farmers. Maybe they lifted too much or pulled something the wrong way, but there’s another potential cause – prolonged exposure of vibration from farm vehicles.
Nathan Fethke is an associate professor in the department of occupational and environmental health at the University of Iowa, which did a study on whole-body vibration experienced while operating ag machinery. He says the seat is the key. Many farm machines have seats with shock-absorbing suspension, and they should be adjusted properly for the operator’s weight.
"And that should be easily identifiable. If someone’s riding around in a machine and they feel the seat bottom out or slam down into the base plate, that seat is not working properly, it’s not adjusted for the operator’s weight properly, or there’s some failure in the mechanism," says Fethke. "In terms of the seat itself, just including the seat as part of the overall maintenance plan of the machine is really important. I mean, these are mechanical things."
Fethke says the operator’s posture is another factor.
"As a person sits, the curvature of their low back is lost typically without a lumbar support. So, you’ve got this sort of stretching of the low back just by the nature of the sitting posture, and then you’re vibrating that low back at the same time, so you get this repeated stretching of the low back," he explains. "That’s one possible theorized mechanism for how prolonged exposure to vibration can lead to problems down the road."
The study showed ATV’s and heavy utility vehicles like skid steers transmitted the highest levels of vibration followed by tractors, pickups and semi-trailers.