Prevent musculoskeletal pain by addressing psychosocial factors

July 9, 2009

Persons in consistently good musculoskeletal health-those who do not report musculoskeletal pain-often demonstrate low levels of psychosocial problems, such as depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, traumatic experiences, and somatization.

Persons in consistently good musculoskeletal health-those who do not report musculoskeletal pain-often demonstrate low levels of psychosocial problems, such as depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, traumatic experiences, and somatization. Promoting low levels of illness behavior and psychological distress and high-quality sleep appears to be effective in improving musculoskeletal health and preventing chronic musculoskeletal pain conditions.

Jones and colleagues conducted a 4-year longitudinal study of a population-based group of patients recruited from general practices in England. Patients were questioned about musculoskeletal pain and related psychosocial factors at 15 months and 4 years.

Patients reporting the least amount of musculoskeletal discomfort had the lowest psychological distress, depression, and anxiety scores. They slept well, seldom were ill, had few somatic complaints, and had experienced no significant trauma in the previous 6 months. Good quality sleep, low illness behavior, low psychological distress, and absence of traumatic life events were independent predictors of good musculoskeletal health. The relationship was strong: 46% of persons with all 4 of these findings reported being pain-free, compared with only 5% of patients who had none of these qualities.

The authors noted that further research is needed to establish the effects of musculoskeletal health–promoting interventions on pain conditions.