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Chiropractic Research Review

High Job Demands, Low Peer Support Increase Neck Pain at Work

The one-year prevalence of neck pain has been shown to be as high as 40%. Neck pain can have multiple origins, including work-related psychosocial factors. Previous studies have evaluated workplace neck pain, but most did not consider psychosocial and individual factors of neck pain.

Some psychosocial factors worthy of investigation include the mental demands on an employee at work; a company's organizational structure; interpersonal relationships on the job; and economics. The purpose of this study was to determine if a variety of psychosocial factors are risk factors for neck pain.

The research, conducted in the Netherlands, utilized the three-year Study on Musculoskeletal Disorders, Absenteeism, Stress and Health (SMASH) to obtain data. Subjects rated aspects of their work from one (totally disagree) to four (totally agree) on the Job Content Questionnaire at baseline. An adapted version of the Nordic Questionnaire was used to determine cases of neck pain lasting at least one day.

Results: Out of an original 1,334 subjects, 977 completed the study. One hundred forty-one workers (14.4%) reported neck pain over the three years. Only two work-related psychosocial factors showed a statistically significant relation to neck pain: low co-worker support increased the risk 2.43 times, and high quantitative job demands increased the risk 2.14 times. High quantitative job demands included such things as employees having to work under deadlines or work under time pressure. No statistically significant relation to neck pain was found for decision authority; skill; discretion; supervisor support; conflicting job demands; or job security.

These results are consistent with results of previous studies that indicate a link between job demands and neck pain. The authors add, "Reduction of quantitative job demands (e.g., working under time pressure or working with deadlines) will have a positive effect on the prevention of neck pain. In addition, attempts should be made to increase social support between fellow workers."

Ariëns GAM, Bongers PM, Hoogendoorn WE, et al. High quantitative job demands and low coworker support as risk factors for neck pain. Spine, September 1, 2001:26(17), pp. 1896-1903.

Chiropractic Research Review

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