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The Role of Perceived Stress and Life Stressors in the Development of Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain Disorders: A Systematic Review

Published:February 21, 2019DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpain.2019.02.008

      Highlights

      • We conducted a systematic review of perceived stress and life stressors in chronic pain.
      • There is low-quality evidence in arthritis and chronic spinal pain.
      • There is high heterogeneity between stress measures.
      • Developing a core set of stress measures may be useful to guide future studies.

      Abstract

      The etiologic role of work-related psychological stress in the development of musculoskeletal pain disorders (MDs) has been systematically investigated. Less clear, however, is the role of perceived stress and life stressors. This review aimed to assess the evidence for an etiologic role of perceived stress and life stressors in the development of chronic MDs. Database searches were conducted to identify prospective longitudinal studies that assessed perceived stress and life stressors in individuals without, or in the first 6 weeks of, musculoskeletal pain. The primary outcome was the development of a chronic MD. Methodologic quality was investigated using an adapted version of the Quality Assessment Tool for Observational Cohort studies and Cross-Sectional studies, and the strength of evidence using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation approach. Seven studies were included representing data from 6 independent cohorts. There was some evidence to support the etiologic role of perceived stress and life stressors in the development of arthritis (low quality) and chronic spinal pain (low quality). The limited number of studies, the poor quality of the evidence, and the heterogeneity of stress measures used across studies suggest that further high quality prospective studies are required to clarify the role of perceived stress and life stressors in the development of chronic MDs.
      PROSPERO: CRD42017059949

      Perspective

      This review summarizes and critically appraises the evidence for the etiologic role of perceived stress and life stressors in the development of chronic MDs. The limited number of studies, the low quality of the evidence, and the heterogeneity across studies suggest that further research is needed on perceived stress and life stressors in MDs.

      Key words

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