Presentation T P14

T P14 (Poster Presentation):
'I think positivity breeds positivity': The role of significant others in supporting those with chronic musculoskeletal pain to stay at work

Presented by: Haitze Janko de Vries

Download PDF


de Vries HJ1, McCluskey S2, Brooks J2, Reneman MF3, Brouwer S1

  1. Department of Health Sciences, Community and Occupational Medicine, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, The Netherlands
  2. Institute for Research in Citizenship and Applied Human Sciences, University of Huddersfield, Queensgate, UK
  3. Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Center for Rehabilitation, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, The Netherlands



Several studies have proposed that significant others (spouse/close family member) can reinforce unhelpful pain cognitions, pessimism about the outcome of treatment and the unlikelihood of returning to work for those with chronic musculoskeletal pain (CMP). However, research is rarely conducted with significant others of those with CMP who remain at work, and their influence on work participation remains unclear.


Two separate studies were conducted in the Netherlands and in the UK. In the Netherlands, workers with CMP and their spouses completed standard and significant other versions of the Multidimensional Pain Inventory, the Pain Self-efficacy Questionnaire and the Pain Catastrophizing Questionnaire (n=103). In the UK, semi-structured interviews based on the chronic pain version of the Illness Perceptions Questionnaire-Revised were conducted with workers with persistent back pain and their significant others (n=10).


In the Dutch study, moderate to high levels of perceived self-efficacy and significant other supportive responses, moderate levels of solicitous and distracting responses, and low levels of punishing responses and catastrophizing were reported by both workers and their significant others in relation to the worker’s CMP. No significant differences existed between both sets of scores, with the exception of pain catastrophizing, whereby workers reported lower levels than their spouses (11.1 versus 14.4;p<0.01). Qualitative data from the UK study supported these findings, further elaborating on the above concepts. Significant others described their support in terms of help with everyday activities, being encouraging to stay active, communicating about the pain, keeping a positive outlook, and admiring their spouses efforts to remain at work. Significant others were viewed as an important factor in helping maintain continued work participation by workers with CMP.


This cross-European, mixed-methods research indicated that significant others may positively contribute to continued work participation for those with CMP. These findings further highlight the importance of the worker’s social environment, and suggest that significant others could usefully inform vocational rehabilitation.

Schedule Details

Tuesday September 30
12:45 - 13:45 Poster Viewing
Session: Social issues