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J Occup Rehabil. 2012 Dec;22(4):503-10. doi: 10.1007/s10926-012-9361-5.

Musculoskeletal pain and psychological distress in hospital patient care workers.

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Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02215, USA.



The aim of the study was to assess the association of psychological distress and musculoskeletal pain, how it is related to pain interference with work and multiple pain areas, and potential differences between the different pain areas in hospital patient care workers.


Data were collected from a cross-sectional survey of patient care workers (n = 1,572) from two large hospitals.


Patient care workers with musculoskeletal pain reported significantly more psychological distress than those without pain. Psychological distress was significantly related to pain interference with work, even after adjusting for pain and demographics (OR = 1.05; CI = 1.01-1.09). The association was strongest for those with both upper- and lower body pain (OR = 1.12; CI = 1.06-1.18). Psychological distress was also independently associated with multiple pain areas.


Psychological distress was found to be higher in workers with musculoskeletal pain, and highest among workers with both upper and lower body pain. Distress was further significantly associated with pain interference with work as well as number of pain areas. The findings may be followed up with a longitudinal design to better determine the direction of the associations, and to investigate if psychological distress increases the risk of work disability and injuries.

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