Objectives: The role of personality characteristics and psychological distress in the incidence of sciatic pain was investigated in a 3-year prospective study.
Methods: The study population consisted of 1149 Finnish men aged 25 through 49 years (387 machine operators, 336 carpenters, and 426 office workers) with no history of sciatic pain at the beginning of follow-up. The psychological distress and personality characteristics were assessed by the Middlesex Hospital Questionnaire and the Maudsley Personality Inventory.
Results: The 3-year cumulative incidence rate for sciatic pain was 22% among the machine operators, 24% among the carpenters, and 14% among the office workers. The multivariate analysis of psychological factors, taking into account individual and occupational factors, showed that only hysteria was significantly associated with the incidence of sciatic pain among the blue-collar workers. Among the white-collar workers, none of the psychological dimensions were associated with sciatic pain.
Conclusions: These results are in accordance with previous relationships found between hysteria and low-back disorders. Further follow-up investigations are needed to elucidate the role of psychological factors in the occurrence of back problems.