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SPOTLIGHT: Do you have “Farmer’s Back?”: Preventing low back pain among crop farmers

SPOTLIGHT: Do you have “Farmer’s Back?”: Preventing low back pain among crop farmers

JUNE 2022

We are excited to share that Justine Bauer, an Occupational Therapy Doctorate Program student at the University of Minnesota, is collaborating with UMASH to complete her capstone project: an “Ergonomic Program for Crop Production Farmers Operating in Rural Communities in the Midwest.” Are you or someone you know a Midwestern crop farmer with work-related pain? Keep reading to find out how to participate!


Justine and the UMASH team identified a need to reduce rates of musculoskeletal disorders, injuries, and pain symptoms, especially in the lower back region among farmers. Crop production farmers, especially in rural, more remote communities, can be at high risk for these conditions due to the physical demands of their job paired with limited access to occupational support and resources.

During Justine’s capstone project, she will explore the following research questions:

  • What risk factors may contribute to musculoskeletal disorders, injuries, and low back pain among crop farmers in the rural Midwest?
  • What factors help and hinder crop farmers in implementing ergonomic strategies to reduce the risk of lower back pain during their work?

The survey responses will inform an individualized pilot program for crop farmers who experience lower back pain related to work tasks. Justine will use her occupational therapy training to provide recommendations to protect the low back region from pain or injury while crop farming. Justine will customize the recommendations to participant needs. They may include environmental and activity modifications, practicing safe body mechanics and postures, and utilizing adaptive equipment. After two site visits, follow-up phone interviews will help understand participant feedback and experiences regarding the feasibility of implementing the recommendations.

Are you or someone you know a crop farmer who regularly experiences work-related back pain? Would you be interested in recommendations that may help to alleviate and prevent back pain? Reach out to bauer613@umn.edu for more information.


Ultimately, Justine’s project will identify practical strategies for farmers to use to prevent or reduce their risk of injury and low-back pain. Welcome to the UMASH team, Justine!

Justine Bauer was drawn to the profession of occupational therapy because she loved the idea of using creative problem solving to identify solutions to help people across the lifespan engage in meaningful activities and life roles.

Growing up around her grandparents’ farm and currently residing in rural Minnesota, Justine wanted to develop a project that would advocate for individuals in rural agriculture communities. Justine is excited to combine her interests in agriculture, pain and injury management/prevention, and acquired skills as an occupational therapy student to deliver a capstone project.