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Job Satisfaction and the Transition from Acute to Chronic Back Pain

In the current medical literature there is ongoing debate as to whether job satisfaction is a predictor or consequence of back pain and disability. The researchers in this study approached the dilemma by evaluating job satisfaction's role in the transition from an acute onset of pain to a chronic problem in patients without prior back pain histories. The authors' hopes were that if factors that cause chronicity could be pinpointed early, interventions could be implemented that would curb the duration of pain and disability.

82 men were assessed with tests evaluating their pain, disability, psychological distress, orthopedic impairment, and job satisfaction at the onset, two months, and six months. Their findings suggest job satisfaction may be a factor in the transition from an acute episode to a persisting condition:

"Greater job satisfaction at the time of initial back pain predicted better overall clinical outcome 6 months later, including reduced pain and disability after controlling for baseline levels of these factors and current orthopedic impairment. There also was a trend for greater job satisfaction to predict reduced psychological distress at six months after controlling for initial psychological distress and current orthopedic impairment."

Also, job satisfaction, type of work performed, and social position were factors influencing the study; but, 6 months later only job satisfaction was predicative of outcome. Therefore, the authors conclude that job satisfaction is not a consequence of the other factors, and may protect against pain episodes by offering an incentive to continue working.

Williams RA, Pruitt SD, Doctor JN, et al. The contribution of job satisfaction to the transition from acute to chronic low back pain. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 1998;79:366-374.