Defining Best Treatments to Help Back Pain Sufferers Return to WorkThere is a huge cost for people who can't work because of low back pain. The costs include lost productivity at work, medical expenses, and the cost of a long rehabilitation program. Researchers are studying this problem to find out how much and what kind of treatment is really needed.
A study in Norway divided 195 people with low back pain into three groups. The three groups ranged from "treatment as usual" with a doctor visit, medications, and physical therapy, to a more intense daily treatment. The more intense treatment involved daily sessions of individual exercise, counseling, and education.
For men with recent back pain (three months or less), a program of advice and exercise works best. Men were more likely to return to work full time and without sick days with this approach. Women seemed to respond best to treatment as usual. A more intense and longer program doesn't always have a better result in the long run. This is true for both men and women with low back pain.
Doctors can find it difficult to treat patients whose low back pain lasts more than three months. Finding the right program for each patient isn't easy. Men and women seem to respond differently to treatment, and men are more likely to return to work. For men who are off work for eight or more weeks, a treatment program of exercise and advice appears to work best. Women in this study responded better to a doctor visit, medication, and physical therapy.
Jan S. Skouen, MD, PhD, et al. Relative Cost-Effectiveness of Extensive and Light Multidisciplinary Treatment Programs Versus Treatment as Usual for Patients With Chronic Low Back Pain on Long-Term Sick Leave. In Spine. May 1, 2002. Vo. 27. No. 9. Pp. 901-910.
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