I'm a 54-year-old woman off work for a work-related back injury. After eight weeks, my back pain still isn't any better. I feel like I might as well be at work. Is there any study that says I'll just make it worse if I go back? Or any reason why I shouldn't return to work?
There are a few things to consider in a case like this. The first is whether or not your back pain is mechanical rather than the result of a serious health problem such as cancer or heart disease. If your physician has cleared you to return to work when you feel ready, then perhaps it is time to ease back into the job.
And that's the second consideration. Do you feel ready to just jump back to your previous level of work? Can you handle the work load? A recent study from the Netherlands showed that older adults do well getting back on-the-job if there is a series of steps to modify or grade the required activities. It's likely that folks in this age category (over 44 years old for that particular study) had a good idea of what it takes to get better and they were willing to do it.
Surprisingly, it wasn't the level of pain, gender (male versus female), or the workload (heavy manual labor) that made a difference in whether or not the employee could successfully return to work sooner than later.
If your physician approves the return-to-work status and you feel ready, the next step is to talk with your employer about any special arrangements you may need (if any). Good luck!