The role of psychosocial stress in the development of chronic musculoskeletal pain disorders: protocol for a systematic review and meta-analysis

Syst Rev. 2017 Nov 3;6(1):224. doi: 10.1186/s13643-017-0618-0.


Background: Psychosocial factors play an important role in chronic musculoskeletal pain disorders. Although psychosocial stress is likely to contribute to the development of chronic musculoskeletal pain, investigations are limited to work-related stress or examination of specific conditions such as upper limb pain. The purpose of this review is to assess the evidence for an aetiological role of psychological stress in chronic musculoskeletal pain disorders.

Methods: A systematic review and meta-analysis will be conducted. Electronic databases will be searched using predefined search terms to identify relevant studies. Data will be extracted by two independent reviewers, and disagreement will be resolved by a third reviewer. Only prospective longitudinal studies that assess psychosocial stress at baseline will be included. The population of interest will be inception cohorts or cohorts of people who have not yet developed chronic musculoskeletal pain disorders. The primary outcome measure will be the onset of chronic musculoskeletal pain.

Discussion: To our knowledge, this review will be the first to systematically explore the available evidence on the aetiological role of psychosocial stress for the development of chronic musculoskeletal pain disorders. This review has the capacity to inform clinical practice on the importance of an early identification and, consequently, treatment of individuals who present with acute musculoskeletal disorders accompanied by a high level of stress.

Systematic review registration: PROSPERO CRD42017059949.

Keywords: Musculoskeletal pain disorders; Prospective longitudinal studies; Psychosocial stress; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / etiology*
  • Research Design
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Systematic Reviews as Topic