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Neck and low back pain are significant health problems for office workers. Various studies have indicated that anywhere between 17 and 42 % of office workers who reported a new onset of neck and low back pain also developed chronic pain. Wow! That is an incredibly high number! Chronic pain (in this study) is defined as pain that has persisted for 3 months after the onset of symptoms. Interestingly enough there seems to be some discrepancy in the way that a chronic injury is defined because other sources have defined the cut-off point as chronic pain longer than 6 months. Anyway that it is defined, I think that we can agree that chronic pain can be debilitating to say the least. So, any information that we can get our hands on about the predictors of chronic neck and low back pain would be tremendous.

There has been previous research on this. For instance, past studies have identified several biopsychosocial factors associated with chronic neck and low back pain. Other research has indicated in their review that older age, poor health, prior pain episodes, higher pain intensity, compensation cases, poor psychological health and worrying, becoming angry, or becoming frustrated in response to neck pain were associated with poorer neck pain outcomes. The good news is that there is a lot of information out there on this subject to help you manage these types of injuries… but it can feel a little overwhelming to sort through the data to get useful (and implementable) information.

Pros (2)

In this section, we’re presenting you with some lists that we hope that you find valuable. These are meant to shine some light on predictors for chronic neck and lower back pain. These work just like a screening tool to identify those in early stages of pain to target interventions and hopefully really help those who are at a higher risk at developing a chronic injury. As they say: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Those who were most likely to develop chronic neck pain were:

  • High body mass index
  • Frequent neck extension during the work day
  • High initial pain intensity
  • High psychological job demands

Those who were most likely to develop chronic low back pain:

  • History of low back pain
  • High initial pain intensity

Specifically for women, these were the predictors of chronic neck pain:

  • Workplace bullying
  • Frequent sleep problems
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Previous acute neck pain
  • Chronic low back pain

Predictors of chronic low back pain in the general population consisted of:

  • Older age
  • Compensation cases
  • High pain intensity
  • High functional limitation due to low back pain
  • Longer duration of low back pain before consultation
  • More days of reduced activity because of low back pain before consultation
  • Feelings of depression
  • Perceived risk of persistence due to a longer recovery
  • A highly resigned attitude towards a job
  • Low social support

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Sihawong, R., Sitthipornvorakul, E., Paksaichol, A. & Janwantanakul, P. (2016). Predictors for chronic neck and low back pain in office workers: a 1-year prospective cohort study. Journal of Occupational Health. 58(1), 16-24.


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