Back Pain and the Workplace

Everyone works hard at some aspect of their job.  Depending on our preparedness, the suitability of the work environment, the length and type  of the activity, there are inevitably occasions where injury is possible. Two recent studies underline the need for measuring your life and seeking the right remedy for back pain attributed to your employment.20772433-portrait-of-businesswoman-lifting-heavy-elephant-isolated-on-white-300x300 raw (2)

According to the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (1), obvious risk factors for increased incidents of lower back pain are confirmed:

  • Women, especially when working > 40 hours per week
  • Workers over the age of 55
  • Young employees working over 60 hours per week
  • Work-family imbalance, a hostile work environment and job insecurity were significantly associated with low back pain.

In the first part, we should take a note from athletes.  They over-train in an activity so that they have some reserve when they perform their routine activity.  For example, they will run some 200 meters intervals during training if their event is the 100 meters.  We should be actively including a.) flexibility, b.) endurance strength, and c.) power training off-hours so that a day at work does not push us to the brink of what we can endure.  This is especially true if the work is physical in nature and that is not included in our lifestyle.  Call me if you need some ideas on how to accomplish that for your particular occupation.

And while the factors in the last point may be more psychological, they have a real influence on how we work. We tend to work more distractedly and with less care for our output and ourselves when gnawing issues persist.  Don’t be afraid to take a step back and reassess whether you need to give 110% when the job doesn’t require it or it is affecting your family.  Learn to leave your work concerns at the office — it can be done.  Fear and anger are cruel taskmasters, and when affected by those emotions, the truly important things in our lives may be stampeded by the urgent.

In the second article, the Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation (2) studied the effectiveness of treatment from the standpoint of cost for the employer.  In comparing care of MDs, DCs and Physical Therapists, this is what they discovered:

  • When reimbursing for work-time loss, those that first were evaluated and treated by chiropractors (DCs) had an average of eight days off work due to disability; MDs, 10 days; physical therapists, 25 days.
  • Of those who had a second incident of back pain, physical therapy patients experienced relapses 24% of the time; medical patients 16% of the time, and chiropractic patients 15% of the time.

While your perspective may not be that of an employer, the relative recovery and relapse rates are a reflection of what you may expect depending on the type of provider chosen for your care.

Unfortunately, Physical Therapists (PTs) have been elevated to the status of “gatekeepers” or primary care providers for injuries in California.  This means that while they are not doctors, they have been given permission to see you initially and determine what treatment is best.  They did not do this by becoming doctors, but by a strong lobby that convinced California legislators that that should be allowed.  The authors of this article propose that PTs should not continue in a roll where they are in control of the direction of a person’s care for back pain.

This study is reminiscent of six studies performed from 1966 through 1974(3-8) by Workers Compensation agencies.  In those reports, patients treated for work-related back pain were assessed for the outcomes comparing medical and chiropractic providers.  In almost identical results to each other, those studies found that chiropractic patients recovered from their injuries at half the cost, in half the time, with half of the residual injuries.

If you are ever injured on the job, whether by single event or a repetitive movement that is causing pain, seek a chiropractic opinion first.  Their care is the most conservative, and according to these studies, the most effective.  Most insurance carriers handling workers compensation in most states have chiropractors on their panel of doctors that you can see.  And reach out to your inner circle of friends and family for prayer and advice if the pressures of work are interfering with what means the most — your health and your family.

  1.  Yang H, Haldeman S, Lu M-L, Baker D.  Low back pain prevalence and related workplace psychosocial risk factors:  A study using data from the 2010 National Health Interview Study.  JMPT, 2016; 39:459-472.
  2. Blanchette M, Rivard M, Dionne C, et al.  Association between the type of first healthcare provider and the duration of financial compensation for occupational back pain.  J Occup Rehab, 2016 Sep 17 (epub ahead of print).
  3.  First Research Corp. A Survey and Analysis of the Treatment of Sprain and Strain Injuries in Industrial Cases, 1971.
  4.  WCAB, State of Oregon.  A Study of Time Loss Back Claims, 1971.
  5. WCAB, State of Oregon.  A 24-month Statistical Analysis of Medical vs. Chiropractic Costs for Sprain and Strain Injuries, 1971.
  6. WCAB, State of Kansas.  Average Costs of Care Delineated by Profession, 1971.
  7. WCAB, State of Iowa.  A Comparison of the Costs of Treatment in Work-related Injuries, 1966.
  8. WCAB, State of Iowa.  A Comparison of the Costs of Treatment in Work-related Injuries, 1969.

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