Factors influencing work interference in patients with chronic low back pain: A residency research network of Texas (RRNeT) study

Richard A. Young, Terrell Benold, John Whitham, Sandra Burge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Introduction: Chronic low back pain (CLBP) is a disabling and expensive condition commonly seen in family physicians' offices. A complete understanding of factors contributing to patients' return to work remains elusive. Objective: To describe patients with CLBP seen in family physicians' offices and to explore factors interfering with return to work. Subjects: Three hundred sixty outpatients with CLBP for more than 3 months. Setting: Ten participating family physicians' offices of the Residency Research Network of Texas. Primary Outcome: The effect of pain on work effect as measured by a Likert scale. Results: Patients were typically female (72%), overweight or obese (mean body mass index, 33.4), had pain for many years (mean, 13.6 years), and screened positive for recent depressive symptoms (83%). The majority of patients took at least some opioid medication for their pain (59%). Multivariate linear regression analysis found that the largest single contributor to effect on work was the subjects'score on the SF-36 physical function scale (β = -0.382). Other contributors included average daily pain (β = 0.189), the frequency of flare-ups of pain (β = 0.108), the effect of the painful flare-ups (β = 0.170), and current depressive symptoms (β = 0.131) (adjusted R 2 for model = 0.535). Age, sex, race/ethnicity, total time the patient has had CLBP, other comorbidities (including a diagnosis of depression), disability status, use of opioids, history of intimate partner violence, social support, and procedures attempted were not predictive. Discussion: Future studies attempting to demonstrate the effectiveness of interventions in CLBP should measure depressive symptoms and the magnitude and effect of painful flare-ups, not just the overall pain score. The majority of CLBP patients seen in these practices take opioids for their pain. Screening and treating for depression may be reasonable for some patients, though evidence of its effectiveness is lacking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)503-510
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Board of Family Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • Analgesics
  • Depression
  • Low back pain
  • Occupational medicine
  • Practice-based research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Family Practice


Dive into the research topics of 'Factors influencing work interference in patients with chronic low back pain: A residency research network of Texas (RRNeT) study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this