Pain complaints are associated with quick returns and insomnia among Norwegian nurses, but do not differ between shift workers and day only workers

  • Dagfinn MatreEmail author
  • Kristian Bernhard Nilsen
  • Maria Katsifaraki
  • Siri Waage
  • Ståle Pallesen
  • Bjørn Bjorvatn
Original Article



To determine whether common work schedule characteristics among Norwegian nurses were associated with subjective pain complaints.


A cross-sectional study in a sample of 1585 nurses, part of the longitudinal questionnaire-based cohort project ‘Survey of Shift work, Sleep and Health’ (SUSSH). Pain from six regions were assessed: ‘headache’, ‘neck/shoulder/upper back’, ‘upper extremities’, ‘lower back’, ‘lower extremities’, and ‘abdomen’. Logistic and negative binomial regression (adjusted for age, sex, percentage of full-time equivalent, marital status and children living at home) were conducted where work schedule, number of night shifts last year, number of quick returns (QR) last year (< 11 h between shifts) and insomnia were predictors of localized pain, widespread pain and number of pain sites.


Localized pain, widespread pain and number of pain sites were associated with insomnia (OR 2.06, 95% CI 1.66–2.55, OR 2.14, 95% CI 1.47–3.09, IRR 1.70, 95% CI 1.51–1.91, respectively). Work schedule and number of night shifts worked last year were not associated with any of the three pain measures. Number of QRs worked last year tended to be associated with number of pain sites.


The study did not support the hypothesis that non-daytime work schedules are associated with pain complaints. Neither was there support for the hypothesis linking number of night shifts, or the number of QRs, to pain complaints. Future studies should aim to determine the association between QRs and pain in more detail. Pain complaints were associated with insomnia.


Shiftwork Night work Insomnia Quick returns Pain complaints Musculoskeletal 



The study received a grant for practical administration and data collection from the Western Norway Regional Health Authority (Grant number 911386). The Norwegian Nurses Organisation has provided grants to cover some of the running expenses of the SUSSH study. The study was further partly funded by Nordforsk, Nordic Program on Health and Welfare (74809).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Work Psychology and PhysiologyNational Institute of Occupational HealthOsloNorway
  2. 2.Section for Clinical Neurophysiology, Department of NeurologyOslo University Hospital-UllevålOsloNorway
  3. 3.Norwegian Competence Center for Sleep DisordersHaukeland University HospitalBergenNorway
  4. 4.Department of Global Public Health and Primary CareUniversity of BergenBergenNorway
  5. 5.Department of Psychosocial ScienceUniversity of BergenBergenNorway

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