Do psychiatric disorders first appear preinjury or postinjury in chronic disabling occupational spinal disorders?

Jeffrey Dersh, Tom Mayer, Brian R. Theodore, Peter Polatin, Robert J. Gatchel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


STUDY DESIGN. An epidemiologic prevalence study. OBJECTIVES. To clarify the temporal association between work-related injury claims and psychiatric disorders in patients with chronic disabling occupational spinal disorders (CDOSDs). SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA. Few empirical data are available regarding the "chicken-or-egg" question of which occurs first: the injury or incident culminating in the painful CDOSD or the psychiatric disturbance. METHODS. Subjects attended a tertiary interdisciplinary rehabilitation program. Psychiatric disorders were assessed using the Structured Clinical Interview for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (SCID-DSM-IV). Psychiatric disorders were characterized as preexisting if they manifested themselves before the work-related injury claim (whether or not they resolved, continued, or reoccurred after injury). They were determined postinjury diagnoses only if they manifested for the first time after the injury claim. RESULTS. A total of 38.7% of the present cohort had at least one preexisting major psychiatric disorder, while 98.9% developed one or more psychiatric disorders for the first time after injury onset (57.9% when pain disorder was excluded). The percentage of patients with preexisting psychiatric disorders was lower than general population base rates (48%). The first onset of certain psychiatric disorders was found to be elevated in patients only after the work-related injury; these included Pain Disorder (95.7%), Major Depressive Disorder (49.7%), and Opioid Dependence (15%). Moreover, 5 times as many patients with MDD, and 10 times as many with opioid dependence, developed these disorders for the first time after the injury. CONCLUSIONS. In general, psychiatric disturbance is not a risk factor for developing a CDOSD. Psychiatric disorders are much more likely to develop after the onset of the work injury, indicating that such injuries and accompanying stressors are likely to be precipitants, rather than consequences, of psychopathology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1045-1051
Number of pages7
Issue number9
StatePublished - Apr 2007


  • Biopsychosocial
  • Chronic pain
  • Comorbidity
  • Disabling occupational spinal disorders
  • Functional restoration
  • Psychiatric disorders
  • Risk factors
  • Work-related injuries


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