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Eur J Pain. 2011 Jul;15(6):634-40. doi: 10.1016/j.ejpain.2010.11.012. Epub 2010 Dec 24.

Job strain, work characteristics and back pain: a study in a university hospital.

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Division of Clinical Epidemiology, University Hospitals of Geneva and Faculty of Medicine, University of Geneva, Switzerland.



The demand-control-support "job strain" model is frequently used in occupational health research. We sought to explore the relationship between job strain and back pain.


One thousand two hundred and ninety-eight collaborators of a Swiss teaching hospital responded to a cross-sectional questionnaire survey that measured job strain, the occurrence of back pain as well as the characteristics and consequences of this pain.


Job strain computed with both psychological and physical demands was strongly and significantly associated with various measures of back pain. These associations displayed a dose-response pattern, and remained strong even after adjustment for job characteristics and professional categories. In contrast, separate dimensions of job strain (except physical demands) and job strain computed with only psychological demands did not remain significantly associated with back pain after adjustment for other variables.


Our results support the findings linking back pain to job strain. Moreover, the relationship between back pain and job strain is much stronger if job strain includes both psychological and physical demands. Results of this study suggest that workplace interventions that aim to reduce job strain may help prevent back pain and may alleviate the personal, social, and economic burden attributable to back pain.

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