Managing pain in the workplace: a focus group study of challenges, strategies and what matters most to workers with low back pain

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Family Medicine and Community Health

Publication Date


Document Type



*Adaptation, Psychological; Adult; Aged; Chronic Disease; *Employment; Female; Focus Groups; Humans; Low Back Pain; Male; Middle Aged; *Self Care; United States; Workplace


Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Preventive Medicine | Primary Care


PURPOSE: Most working adults with low back pain (LBP) continue to work despite pain, but few studies have assessed self-management strategies in this at-work population. The purpose of this study was to identify workplace challenges and self-management strategies reported by workers remaining at work despite recurrent or persistent LBP, to be used as a framework for the development of a workplace group intervention to prevent back disability.

METHOD: Workers with LBP (n = 38) participated in five focus groups, and audio recordings of sessions were analysed to assemble lists of common challenges and coping strategies. A separate analysis provided a general categorisation of major themes.

RESULTS: Workplace pain challenges fell within four domains: activity interference, negative self-perceptions, interpersonal challenges and inflexibility of work. Self-management strategies consisted of modifying work activities and routines, reducing pain symptoms, using cognitive strategies and communicating pain effectively. Theme extraction identified six predominant themes: knowing your work setting, talking about pain, being prepared for a bad day, thoughts and emotions, keeping moving and finding leeway.

CONCLUSIONS: To retain workers with LBP, this qualitative investigation suggests future intervention efforts should focus on worker communication and cognitions related to pain, pacing of work and employer efforts to provide leeway for altered job routines.

DOI of Published Version



Disabil Rehabil. 2010;32(24):2035-45. Epub 2010 Sep 23. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Disability and rehabilitation

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID