One of the biggest reasons workers go out on comp is due to low back pain (LBP). For many people it is a recurring problem. A new study even shows that having an episode of LBP is the main risk factor for having recurring episodes.
But your workers don’t need to keep experiencing LBP, and you don’t have to lose their productivity. There is no quick fix for chronic LBP but there is a relatively easy answer: exercise.
Surprisingly, many people who’ve had chronic LBP don’t seem to understand that, or, for whatever reason, don’t engage in it. The study, published by the American Physical Therapy Association, shows that after an acute episode of LBP, “one-third of patients will experience a recurrent episode,” and experiencing more than 2 previous episodes of LBP “triples the odds of a recurrence within 1 year.”
The study included nearly 1,000 adults in Australia who sought medical care for LBP between October 2011 and November 2012. The researchers tracked their progress over the course of a year.
The study included a variety of factors to see what might drive higher risks of chronic LBP, but found none. “The results … showed that only 1 factor, multiple previous episodes of LBP, was associated with a recurrence within 1 year. … Nearly half of those with multiple previous episodes of LBP had a recurrence. No other factors were associated with recurrences.”
Workers of all ages get LBP, although their symptoms are somewhat different. People over the age of 40 often have degenerative changes driving their LBP, while younger workers tend to have more soft tissue problems; but both can have recurring issues. It’s very common among workers we treat.
We often talk about acute or chronic pain LBP. The main difference is duration.
The treatment for each type of LBP is different.
The main remedy for acute LBP is rest, although that does not mean bed rest. We’re talking more about just taking it easy, not overdoing things. The injured worker should avoid movements that aggravate the pain; no heavy exercise, for example. Simple movements like bending down to pick up something can aggravate the condition. For a day or two, depending on the severity, the person should find a balance between resting and moving to let the body heal. If he’s prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs or muscle relaxers this will give the medication a chance to help the body.
Chronic LBP does require movement. Avoiding movement is one of the worst things a person can do. The injured worker needs to engage in exercises to help reduce the pain and prevent recurrence of the LBP.
It’s important to work on flexibility, strengthening and stability, to help with mobility and range of motion so the person can move in a functional manner. Otherwise, the muscles are tight and the joints don’t go through the proper range of motion when moving. The idea is to change tight, weak muscles into strong, flexible muscles.
Yoga, Pilates, strengthening exercises — any of these and many others will help. Ideally, the injured worker should work on a combination of exercises that help his flexibility and mobility. Here are some and how they help with LBP:
LBP does not need to be nearly as pervasive as it is. Workers with chronic LBP can be taught to make some simple lifestyle changes — like engaging in regular exercise, to get relief.
Locate one of our nationwide OnSite Physio therapists now.