Washington: Unsatisfactory jobs may give a headache to many, but a study says that they can also cause acute back pain.
Researchers at University of Western Australia have found that workers who resign themselves to work in unsatisfactory jobs are more likely to suffer from serious, persistent lower back pain than others with a positive attitude.
In their study, they found that a third of people studied with niggling non-specific back pain went on to develop daily back pain that severely affected their career and social lives.
Although the workers required extended sick leave and went to their doctors complaining of pain, only a few had suffered a physical change such as a slipped disc. Anatomical tests showed no reasons for their ongoing daily problems with pain, say the researchers.
"Everybody has occasional lower back or neck pain but we are concerned about people with continuous non-specific pain for weeks at a time, which has significant socio-economic and personal costs," Prof Markus Melloh, who led the team, said.
The researchers found that patients who continued to show "maladaptive cognitions" such as fear and helplessness about their condition, movement avoidance and magnification of its seriousness were likely to develop a persistent condition.
"Attitude in the workplace and positive thinking have a huge impact on lower back pain. If an employee has the option to participate in change in their workplace or have some say in their job design, they can regain a positive attitude and the condition may correct itself.
"Having somebody to listen and show emotional support at work is a strong protective factor," Prof Melloh said.
A total of 315 patients who went to their doctors with their first episode of non-specific back pain were interviewed at that time and followed up at three, six and 12 weeks, and six months.
The assessment included questions about their attitude. By the end of the study, 169 people were still participating in the research and about a third of them - 64 patients - were classed as having a persistent condition.
Some reported worse pain after six months, which was not what doctors would usually expect.
"Once people stay at home on sick leave, it gets harder to go back to work and the pain gets worse. It`s a vicious circle that needs to be broken. The research shows that if patients feel helpless and are convinced that any movement will land them in a wheelchair, they are making their condition worse," Prof Melloh said in a release.