Workers With Back Pain Deserve Better
Workers' Comp (WC) patients don't seem to get better or get back to work after spinal fusion for low back pain (LBP). Is that because they are involved in a WC claim? Or are there other physical, psychological, or social factors at play?
An ongoing study of WC patients with LBP in Ohio is looking for some answers. Data is being collected on two groups. The first group are the WC patients who have had lumbar spine fusion for LBP.
The second (control) group are workers with similar back problems but who have not had any surgery. By matching the two groups up this way, the researchers can compare results of treatment.
Studies in the past have reported high rates of reoperation and disability among WC patients. Early results from the Ohio study show that 64 per cent of workers were still off work a year after their surgery. Patients with fusion ended up on more narcotics for pain after the operation than before. The lead author was quoted as saying, Workers with back pain deserve better.
Efforts will continue to find out why the results are so poor. Patients with different causes of their back pain will be included and compared. Everyone will be followed for at least two years.
It's possible that the long-term results will show better pain control and function with fewer narcotics being used and more patients returning to work. Maybe it's true that time heals all wounds.
Fusion and Workers' Comp. In The Back Letter. November 2006. Vol. 21. No. 11. Pp. 121, 130-131.