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Open Access Research article

Are religious beliefs and practices of Buddhism associated with disability and salivary cortisol in office workers with chronic low back pain?

Annop Sooksawat1, Prawit Janwantanakul1*, Tewin Tencomnao2 and Praneet Pensri1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Physical Therapy, Faculty of Allied Health Sciences, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand

2 Center for Excellence in Omics-Nano Medical Technology Development Project, Department of Clinical Chemistry, Faculty of Allied Health Sciences, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2013, 14:29  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-14-29

Published: 17 January 2013

Abstract

Background

Low back pain (LBP) is common among office workers. A number of studies have established a relationship between Christianity and physical and mental health outcomes among chronic pain patients. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between the religious beliefs and practices of Buddhism and disability and psychological stress in office workers with chronic LBP.

Methods

A cross-sectional survey was conducted with a self-administered questionnaire delivered by hand to 463 office workers with chronic LBP. Saliva samples were collected from a randomly selected sub-sample of respondents (n=96). Disability due to LBP was assessed using the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire and psychological stress was assessed based on salivary cortisol. Two hierarchical regression models were built to determine how much variance in disability and psychological stress could be explained by religious beliefs and practices of Buddhism variables after controlling for potential confounder variables.

Results

Only 6% of variance in psychological stress was accounted for by the religious beliefs and practices of Buddhism. Those with high religiousness experienced lower psychological stress. No association between the religious beliefs and practices of Buddhism and disability level was found. Depressive symptoms were attributed to both psychological stress and disability status in our study population.

Conclusions

The findings suggest that, although being religious may improve the psychological condition in workers with chronic LBP, its effect is insufficient to reduce disability due to illness. Further research should examine the role of depression as a mediator of the effect of psychological stress on disability in patients with chronic LBP.