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Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2002 Apr 15;27(8):864-70.

Work-related outcomes in occupational low back pain: a multidimensional analysis.

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  • 1Department of Family Medicine University of Massachusetts Medical School, Boston, USA.



This pilot study explored a broad range of work-related outcomes for occupational low back injuries.


A model of occupational outcomes and a survey instrument were developed on the basis of interviews, expert opinion, and literature reviews. New Hampshire workers who had an occupational back injury a year before the study were sampled from first reports of injury and sent a mailed survey about their postinjury experiences and related factors.


Of 251 randomly selected cases, a valid address could be identified for 121, and 99 patients responded. Almost 60% of the respondents had lost 1 week of work or more. At 1 year after injury, half of the respondents had returned to their preinjury job and employer, and 20% were unemployed, half of them because of the injury. Most working respondents reported no decrease in their work capacity. However, 68% still had pain exacerbated by work, and 47% worried that their condition would worsen with continued work. Reinjury occurred in 42% of the respondents. The work-related outcome measures were largely independent of each other. Exploratory multivariate analyses demonstrated unique patterns of factors associated with each outcome. Reinjury risk was significantly greater in respondents whose employers offered accommodations or whose postinjury jobs had greater ergonomic risk. The small sample size limited the ability to achieve statistically significant results in multivariate analyses.


Simply measuring return to work did not appear to capture the full range of job-related consequences from occupational back injuries in this pilot evaluation. Timing of return to work, occupational ergonomic risks, and appropriate job modifications appeared to be particularly important in a safe return to the job after an occupational low back injury. Results suggest opportunities to address risk factors that may improve work outcomes.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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