Low back pain (LBP) is a leading cause of disability  including lost work days (LWDs) and early retirement [3; 4]. Among the work-related disability domains, LWDs are particularly important because they increase the economic burden of pain for the individual, family and society. A number of factors such as overall work demands, working on a nightshift, perceived lack of support and/or encouragement from supervisors, and lack of rest time have been previously found to be associated with LWDs among nurses . Although a variety of factors are known to be associated with LWDs, not a lot is known about the role that modifiable pain-related factors play in LWDs. Exploring the role that these factors might play is important because it could inform the development of treatments designed to reduce the impact of chronic pain on LWDs.
In a recent study , we examined these issues in a sample of nurses from a Tertiary Hospital in Nepal. Nurses have a high prevalence of LBP which affects their work productivity and can potentially jeopardize patient care . We asked 111 nurses if they had LBP, and further asked those who had LBP (N = 72, 65%) to tell us: (1) their total number of LWDs in the past year; (2) the average and worst pain intensities of their LBP on 11-point numerical rating scales; (3) whether or not pain was constant or intermittent; (4) aggravating factors such as bending, lifting, walking and standing, and (5) relieving factors such as rest, medications, and exercise. We hypothesized that more LWDs would be reported by those who (1) reported higher pain intensities and (2) endorsed passive management strategies such as rest and use of medications to alleviate pain. We further hypothesized that those who reported use of active management strategies such as exercise would report fewer LWDs.
The findings indicated that LWDs were not associated with maximum pain intensity over the last week or average pain intensity in most days in a week. Of the other associations evaluated, only two pain-related factors emerged to be significantly associated with LWDs; reporting constant pain and reporting rest as an alleviating factor for pain. Thus, more LWDs were reported by (1) those who endorsed having constant pain than those who did not endorse having constant pain and (2) those who reported using rest to relieve pain than who did not report using rest to relieve pain. Further, the role of rest as a predictor of LWDs remained despite controlling for pain intensity.
Inconsistent with the study hypotheses, pain intensity (both worst and average pain) were not associated with the LWDs, nor were many of the activities that nurses generally do at work (e.g., bending, lifting, walking and standing).
The findings suggest the possibility that factors other than pain intensity may be more important in the number of LWDs due to LBP . Likewise, they support the notion that rest as a management strategy for LBP may not be maladaptive – at least with respect to its positive association with LWDs in nurses. Research is needed to examine the potential causal association of rest as a management strategy and LWDs in nurses with LBP. If found to play a causal role, then the findings suggest that it may be more effective to teach nurses active pain management strategies than to focus treatment on pain intensity reduction.
About Saurab Sharma
Saurab Sharma is a physiotherapist and a pain researcher from Nepal interested in assessment and treatment of chronic pain. Working for over 8 years in a country so different to the west from where bulk of research originates, Saurab identified numerous differences and difficulties of managing people living with chronic pain in Nepal. Thus, he is currently testing a number of hypotheses on cross-cultural, psychosocial factors in chronic pain as a part of “Developing Country Collaborative Research Grant” with Professor Mark Jensen. Saurab has developed other important collaborations across the globe to study chronic pain. His current research projects include development, translation and validation ofpain-related outcome measures in Nepali. Saurab also runs a website, www.linkphysio.com where he invites students to write blog posts and encourage their scientific writing skills and at the same time bring the evidences to clinicians and patients with chronic pain in Nepal.
Saurab teaches at the only physiotherapy school in Nepal in Kathmandu University which he is passionate about. Apart from teaching, Saurab loves to travel and explore the world. Saurab plans to start a ‘Pain Research Group’ within the university after his PhD so as todevelop novel pain management programs specific for Nepalese population which could then be adapted to other similar developing nations.
About Mark Jensen
Mark P. Jensen, is a Professor and Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Dr. Jensen’s research program focuses on the development and evaluation of psychosocial interventions for pain management. He has been awarded a number of grants from the National Institutes of Health and other funding sources for this work, and is the author or co-author of over 400 articles and chapters. He has received a number of awards from the American Psychological Association (2003 APA Division 30 Award for Best Clinical Paper and 2012 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Scientific Hypnosis), the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis (Roy M. Dorcus Award for Best Clinical Paper, 2004), and the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (Clark Hull Award for Scientific Excellence in Writing on Experimental Hypnosis, 2009) for his scientific contributions. He is the author of Hypnosis for chronic pain management, which won the 2011 Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis Arthur Shapiro Award for Best Book on Hypnosis. He is also the current Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Pain.
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Commissioning Editors: Neil O’Connell and Carolyn Berryman