Job stress and chronic and widespread musculoskeletal pain: a cross-sectional analysis from the Brazilian Longitudinal Study of Adult Health Musculoskeletal

Pain. 2022 Oct 1;163(10):2044-2051. doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000002602. Epub 2022 Feb 1.


Musculoskeletal pain is a global health concern, and work-related psychosocial stress might be a potential contributing factor. This cross-sectional study investigates whether job stress is associated with chronic and widespread musculoskeletal pain in 2051 Brazilian active civil servants included in the Brazilian Longitudinal Study of Adult Health Musculoskeletal (ELSA-Brasil MSK). Job stress was assessed using the Effort-Reward Imbalance (ERI) questionnaire. Associations between ERI domains, categorized into tertiles, and chronic musculoskeletal pain (CMP) at any site and per number of affected sites (0, 1-2, ≥3-multisite pain) and body regions (0, 1-2, 3-generalized pain), were investigated using binary and multinomial logistic regression, adjusted for sociodemographic, occupational, and health covariates. The prevalence of CMP at any site, multisites, and generalized regions was 52.9%, 18.2%, and 9.5%, respectively. After adjustments, the lower the reward and the greater the overcommitment, the higher the odds of CMP at any site. The ERI domains were more strongly associated with multisite and generalized CMP than with CMP at any site. Multisite CMP was associated with lower reward and with greater effort, overcommitment, and effort-reward imbalance ratio. Chronic musculoskeletal pain according to body regions, especially generalized pain, was also associated with ERI domains effort (OR = 2.06; 95%CI = 1.33-3.21), overcommitment (OR = 3.44; 95%CI = 2.20-5.39), and effort-reward imbalance ratio (OR = 2.06; 95%CI = 1.30-3.27). Results reveal an association between job stress not only with CMP at any site but notably with the pain spread to other body sites or regions. Our findings suggest that lowering stress at work and discouraging overcommitment may help reduce the CMP burden, including reduction of CMP spread from one site or region of the body to another.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brazil / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Musculoskeletal Pain* / epidemiology
  • Musculoskeletal Pain* / psychology
  • Occupational Stress* / epidemiology
  • Reward
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Workload / psychology