Bad Work Environment Can Be A Pain in the…

February 24, 2003 ( - That sense that your job is a real pain in the backside could be more than just your imagination, according to new research.

According to a Reuters Health report, researcher Dr. Janet M. Johnston and her colleagues discovered that people who are unhappy at work and are forced to work under intense and hectic conditions are more likely to feel back pain than others.

And while repeated heavy lifting and straining certainly contribute to workplace pain, “We found that (psychological risks of back pain) were just as important as the physical side,” Johnston told Reuters Health.

“Material” Findings

During the study, Johnston, who is associated with the Epidemiology Data Center at the University of Pittsburgh, and her colleagues conducted two interviews, six months apart, with 6,311 employees of 160 stores who had “material handling” responsibilities – those responsible for receiving and unloading deliveries, stocking the store, or managing departments.

Filtering out the influence of previous back injury and on-the-job lifting on reports of workplace back pain by the interviewees, the researchers discovered that the quality of the workers’ environments influenced their risk of back pain.

For example, people at jobs where they had to work hard and concentrate for long stretches had a higher risk of reporting back pain, as did those in hectic environments that were often disrupted by outside factors.   

Carry “Cache?”

Reuters noted that Johnston said people who feel as if they don’t have control over their work environment or who feel unhappy with their work may feel more stress – and that stress could lead to tension in their bodies – and cause them to carry themselves in a manner that increases the risk of injury.

However, Johnson cautioned that since the study measured back pain based on a workers’ memory, it’s also possible that people who are less happy at the workplace may just be more likely than others to remember back pain and report it.

The findings were reported in the February issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.   Other researchers on the project included Douglas P. Landsittel, Nancy A. Nelson, Lytt I. Gardner, and James T. Wassell.