Why Many Police Officers Are Getting Musculoskeletal Pain

At first glance, police officers seem to be healthy workers in our community due to their physical nature of work and high standard prerequisites for physical and mental health at the time of joining the police work force. However, the stressful demands of police work can induce stress-related impairments.1 

Musculoskeletal disorders are considered a major issue affecting the health and well-being of many police officers. Discomfort from wearing mandatory equipment and sitting for long periods of time in patrol vehicles or motorcycles are workload factors linked to musculoskeletal disorders.2 There are multiples studies that were conducted in looking at the biomechanics of different load carriage designs for the police force.3,4,5,6 These studies showed that the loads carried by police officers have a significant effect on the way they walk and move meaning it affects their gait kinematics and kinetics when wearing standard equipment such as body armor, vests, duty belts and belt mounted holsters. By adding on extra weight onto their body, their center of gravity and posture will change. The ability of the trunk muscles to sustain force for longer periods of time is essential to providing spinal stability.7 If a police officer is already starting to feel pain somewhere in their body, then it may be an indication that their spine is taking on too much load it can handle. 

The most frequent reported musculoskeletal disorder among the police force is low back pain but disorders in the neck, shoulders, arms and lower extremities were also noted.8 They are suspected to increase the risk of developing low back pain and chronic low back pain because of all of the occupational factors like wearing their duty belt, body armor and driving a patrol car or motorcycle.1,9 In fact, Douma et al. conducted a study looking at the presence of chronic low back pain and how it affected police officers and their mental health. They found that having chronic low back pain is associated with an increase in mental health-related quality of life such as post-traumatic stress disorder, perceived stress, job satisfaction, anxiety and depression.1 Pain throughout the body affects overall performance physically, mentally and emotionally all while increasing their risk to injury.  It’s really important that because studies are showing that officers have a high chance of getting pain in their body, going to see a chiropractor is essential to their overall health and performance to prevent these injuries.

Under chiropractic care at Modern Chiropractic Center in Boise and Nampa, police officers may be able to take less time off of work due to reduction in pain levels, increase energy and motivation in their work, exercise and work out more often, and increase range of motion throughout their body. 

If you or someone you know is a police officer, contact us for a consultation. 

1 Benyamina Douma N, Côté C, Lacasse A. Quebec Serve and Protect Low Back Pain Study: What About Mental Quality of Life? Saf Health Work. 2019 Mar;10(1):39-46. doi: 10.1016/j.shaw.2018.08.006. Epub 2018 Sep 6. PMID: 30949379; PMCID: PMC6428994. 

2 Larsen LB, Andersson EE, Tranberg R, Ramstrand N. Multi-site musculoskeletal pain in Swedish police: associations with discomfort from wearing mandatory equipment and prolonged sitting. Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2018 May;91(4):425-433. doi: 10.1007/s00420-018-1292-9. Epub 2018 Feb 7. PMID: 29411113; PMCID: PMC5908816. 

3 Holmes MW, McKinnon CD, Dickerson CR, Callaghan JP. The effects of police duty belt and seat design changes on lumbar spine posture, driver contact pressure and discomfort. Ergonomics. 2013;56(1):126-36. doi: 10.1080/00140139.2012.739206. Epub 2012 Nov 12. PMID: 23140370. 

4 Larsen LB, Tranberg R, Ramstrand N. Effects of thigh holster use on kinematics and kinetics of active duty police officers. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2016 Aug;37:77-82. doi: 10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2016.06.009. Epub 2016 Jun 29. PMID: 27380202. 

5 Ramstrand N, Zügner R, Larsen LB, Tranberg R. Evaluation of load carriage systems used by active duty police officers: Relative effects on walking patterns and perceived comfort. Appl Ergon. 2016 Mar;53 Pt A:36-43. doi: 10.1016/j.apergo.2015.08.007. Epub 2015 Sep 5. PMID: 26674402. 

6 Filtness AJ, Mitsopoulos-Rubens E, Rudin-Brown CM. Police officer in-vehicle discomfort: appointments carriage method and vehicle seat features. Appl Ergon. 2014 Jul;45(4):1247-56. doi: 10.1016/j.apergo.2014.03.002. Epub 2014 Mar 27. PMID: 24681072. 

7 Tavares JMA, Rodacki ALF, Hoflinger F, Dos Santos Cabral A, Paulo AC, Rodacki CLN. Physical Performance, Anthropometrics and Functional Characteristics Influence the Intensity of Nonspecific Chronic Low Back Pain in Military Police Officers. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Sep 3;17(17):6434. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17176434. PMID: 32899413; PMCID: PMC7504182. 

8 Cho TS, Jeon WJ, Lee JG, Seok JM, Cho JH. Factors affecting the musculoskeletal symptoms of korean police officers. J Phys Ther Sci. 2014 Jun;26(6):925-30. doi: 10.1589/jpts.26.925. Epub 2014 Jun 30. PMID: 25013298; PMCID: PMC4085223. 

9 Matysiak A, Trybulec B, Wójcik R. Występowanie dolegliwości ze strony narządu ruchu u policjantów pełniących służbę na motocyklach [Incidence of musculoskeletal disorders in police officers riding motorcycles while on duty]. Med Pr. 2020 Mar 30;71(2):177-186. Polish. doi: 10.13075/mp.5893.00940. Epub 2020 Mar 24. PMID: 32225179. 

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