Study finds micromanagement is destroying your back

Your job is killing you is no longer just a saying.

A new systematic meta-analysis conducted by researchers at the Technische Universität Dresden established a “robust” association between the development of chronic lower back pain (CLBP)  and workload, job control, and the perceived lack of social support.

The review began with a collection of data from 18 previously conducted studies. Individuals who expressed autonomy at their place of work were consistently less affected by CLBP.

Conversely, participants that reported a lack of support from their superiors, an overwhelming amount of daily tasks and a lack of “job control” evidenced the most severe cases of CLBP. All of these outcomes were additionally influenced by exposure time, mean age and sex.

Chronic life and acute lower back pain

Chronic back pain, which is defined as any pain occurring on the spine or back that lasts between four and 12 weeks, affects just about 80% of adults at some point in their lives.

The most prominent mechanical correlates are excursion, sedentary lifestyles and age-related changes to the spine. However, all of these are often made worse by stress.

Of the 19,000 people analyzed in the new study published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorder, a significant portion lamented anxieties related to job security, compensation, and pressure put upon them by their supervisors. This toxic interplay played a huge role in both the intensity and the likelihood of the development of CLBP.

Even when back pain occurs as a result of psychological factors the sharp sensation experienced by the sufferer is a result of intervertebral discs, muscles, the spine, and nerves failing to properly fit and move in unison.

Whether attributed to personal challenges or work-life ergonomics prolonged emotional tension can yield constrictions to the functions of blood vessels including flow in the ligaments, nerves and tendons in the lower back.

The ultimate result is a decrease in oxygen and the accumulation of biochemical waste in affected areas of the body that manifests as a lingering ache.

If you are experiencing CLBP seek a medical professional in order to rule out any potentially serious underlying causes. If work-life stress is left as the last unaddressed variable consider consulting with your human resource department.

The average adult spends a collective 13 years and two months at their place of work. At a certain point well-being becomes dependent on office culture. The researchers of the new paper suggest companies invest in programs for over-worked employees to reduce  CLBP related absenteeism.

“These data provide an important basis for the development of prevention programs,” explains Dr. Denise Dörfel, postdoc at the Chair of Work and Organisational Psychology and one of the co-authors of the new paper. Flexible breaks, more autonomy in scheduling the work, all this reduces the workload. Social support from colleagues and more feedback and recognition from superiors may also help.

In view of the changes within the current working world, job exposures that shape the exchange and interplay between organization and employee, for instance, reward, fairness, and values, are expected to become more important in maintaining health in general and preventing CLBP in particular.”