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Bispebjerg Hospital - a part of Copenhagen University Hospital

Physical demand at work and sick leave due to low back pain: a cross-sectional study

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OBJECTIVES: To investigate if self-reported high physical demand at work, objective physical workload using a job exposure matrix (JEM) and fear-avoidance beliefs are associated with reported sick leave in the previous year in persons with low back pain (LBP). Second, to investigate if the effects of fear-avoidance and self-reported high physical demand at work on sick leave are modified by the objective physical workloads.

SETTINGS: Participants were recruited from general practice and by advertisement in a local newspaper.

PARTICIPANTS: 305participants with a current period of 2-4 weeks LBP and self-reported difficulty in maintaining physically demanding jobs due to LBP were interviewed, clinically examined and had an MRI at baseline.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Independent variables were high fear-avoidance, self-reported high physical demand at work and objective measures of physical workloads (JEM). Outcome was self-reported sick leave due to LBP in the previous year. Logistic regression and tests for interaction were used to identify risk factors and modifiers for the association with self-reported sick leave.

RESULTS: Self-reported physically demanding work and high fear-avoidance were significantly associated with prior sick leave due to LBP in the previous year with OR 1.75 95% CI (1.10 to 2.75) and 2.75 95% CI (1.61to 4.84), respectively. No objective physical workloads had significant associations. There was no modifying effect of objective physical workloads on the association between self-reported physical demand at work/high fear-avoidance and sick leave.

CONCLUSIONS: Occupational interventions to reduce sick leave due to LBP may have to focus more on those with high self-reported physical demands and high fear-avoidance, and less on individuals with the objectively highest physical workload.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere026917
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)e026917
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019

    Research areas

  • preventive medicine, rehabilitation medicine, rheumatology

ID: 57539367