The Link Between Psychosocial Factors at Work and Back PainResearch has shown that psychosocial factors play a role in low back pain (LBP). Work load, limited control over work, and job satisfaction are some of these factors. But the results of these studies don't all agree or show consistent patterns.
In this study, researchers from Belgium used information from a survey already completed by 2,556 middle-aged workers (men and women). The goal was to assess psychosocial factors about job stress.
Some questions measured job control, perception of job insecurity, and feelings of stress at work. Other items assessed support from supervisors, coworkers, friends, and family. Workers were asked about back pain and physical demands of the job (lifting, awkward body positions, rapid movements).
Almost half of all workers surveyed reported having LBP. Back pain was defined as LBP for a total of eight days or more during the last 12 months. The number of women affected was higher than men. Older workers who smoked or were overweight were more likely to report back pain. LBP was more common among workers with high physical job demands.
Men with little control over their job decisions were more likely to have LBP. Other significant factors included low social support at work, low wage satisfaction, and high stress at work. Women were not significantly affected by these factors. They were more influenced by high job insecurity. There was no clear link between psychological demands and LBP for men or women.
The results of this study support previous reports that LBP is linked with psychosocial risk factors. Follow-up over 6.6 years showed a high rate of retirement, resignation, or dismissal.
Company reorganizations and restructuring eliminated 73 per cent of the workers in the study. The authors suggest their reported results may be underestimates of the long-term drop-out effect of low job control.
Els Clays, MSc, et al. The Impact of Psychosocial Factors on Low Back Pain. In Spine. January 15, 2007. Vol. 32. No. 2. Pp. 262-268.
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