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More autonomy may reduce workers’ risk of chronic low back pain: study

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Dresden, Germany — More control over your workload could help reduce your chance of developing chronic low back pain, results of a recent study out of Germany suggest.

Researchers from the Dresden University of Technology looked at more than 19,000 data sets from 18 studies to examine links between chronic low back pain and the “psychosocial areas of work life.” Results show that workers given lots of tasks suffered chronic low back pain more often.

“Employees with more job control were less affected,” researcher and social psychologist Anne Tomaschek said in a Jan. 23 press release. “It was also shown that back pain was lower when people received social support at work from their superiors and colleagues.”

More than 23% of the world’s population has chronic low back pain, making it the most prevalent chronic pain disorder, the release states.

“These data provide an important basis for the development of prevention programs,” Denise Dörfel, researcher and postdoc at the Chair of Work and Organizational Psychology, said in the release. “In view of the increasing burden and high costs of CLBP for individuals, employers and society, this meta-analysis provides important insights for public health and human resource management.

“A redesign of working conditions could reduce pain-related absenteeism. Flexible breaks, more autonomy in scheduling the work, all this reduces the workload.”

The study was published online in the journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders.

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