The Impact of Back Pain on Work ProductivityThis study presents the results of a telephone survey of the U.S. workforce measuring low back pain (LBP) and work loss. It was part of a larger national telephone survey conducted by the Caremark American Productivity Audit.
The focus of the study was to measure how many adults have LBP at any one time and calculate the cost in lost productive time. Everyone contacted in the main survey was 16 to 65 years old and currently employed.
Subjects included in this study were 40 to 65 years old and reported back pain in the previous two weeks. All were employed during that time. Two groups were compared. The first group had back pain. The second group did not have back pain.
The authors report about 15 per cent of the total group had LBP at any point in time. This is called prevalence. Almost half of those adults (42 per cent) had repeat episodes of back pain called relapses or exacerbations.
Workers with LBP relapses reported much more activity limitation and lost production time compared to workers without LBP or workers with other health problems. The cost of LBP to employers was estimated at 7.4 billion dollars/year. Three-fourths of that cost is directly linked to relapses.
The authors conclude that more efforts to reduce flare-ups of LBP could improve work productivity. More research is needed to find ways to predict workers prone to LBP relapses and treat them to prevent this from happening.
Judith A. Ricci, ScD, MS, et al. Back Pain Exacerbations and Lost Productive Time Costs in United States Workers. In Spine. December 15, 2006. Vol. 31. No. 26. Pp. 3052-3060.
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