Little is known about the role of prior occupational low back injury in future episodes of low back pain and disability in the general population. We conducted a study to determine if a lifetime history of work-related low back injury is associated with prevalent severity-graded low back pain, depressive symptoms, or both, in the general population.
We used data from the Saskatchewan Health and Back Pain Survey - a population-based cross-sectional survey mailed to a random, stratified sample of 2,184 Saskatchewan adults 20 to 69 years of age in 1995. Information on the main independent variable was gathered by asking respondents whether they had ever injured their low back at work. Our outcomes, the 6-month period prevalence of severity-graded low back pain and depressive symptoms during the past week, were measured with valid and reliable questionnaires. The associations between prior work-related low back injury and our outcomes were estimated through multinomial and binary multivariable logistic regression with adjustment for age, gender, and other important covariates.
Fifty-five percent of the eligible population participated. Of the 1,086 participants who responded to the question about the main independent variable, 38.0% reported a history of work-related low back injury. A history of work-related low back injury was positively associated with low intensity/low disability low back pain (OR, 3.66; 95%CI, 2.48-5.42), with high intensity/low disability low back pain (OR, 4.03; 95%CI, 2.41-6.76), and with high disability low back pain (OR, 6.76; 95%CI, 3.80-12.01). No association was found between a history of work-related low back injury and depression (OR, 0.85; 95%CI, 0.55-1.30).
Our analysis shows an association between past occupational low back injury and increasing severity of prevalent low back pain, but not depression. These results suggest that past work-related low back injury may be an important risk factor for future episodes of low back pain and disability in the general population.
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