Return to Work Faster with Low-Intensity Back School
Every year the United States and other western countries lose billions of dollars from work absenteeism due to back pain. Most workers recover quickly and only use sick leave for a short time. The risk of disability increases greatly when back pain doesn't go away, and workers are off the job for one to two months.
In this study the results of low-intensity back school are compared to usual care or high-intensity back school. Back School is a prevention and education program to help patients understand and care for their spines. Information about anatomy, posture, lifting, and exercise is presented over a period of weeks to months.
Three hundred (300) workers were randomly assigned to one of three groups. Group one (usual care) was told to keep doing their usual daily activities. Group two (low-intensity back school) attended four group classes once a week for four weeks. This group learned coping skills and did exercises at home twice a week.
Group three (high-intensity back school) met twice a week for eight weeks. A physical therapist helped this group increase their activity level. Activities and exercises mimicked the work place. This group also did a program of home exercises.
Results were measured by number of days off work, pain intensity, and level of function. Patients in the low-intensity back school went back to work faster than patients in the usual care group or high-intensity back school. Function and freedom from fear of movement were better in the low-intensity group at the end of both three and six months.
Martijn W. Heymans, PT, PhD, et al. The Effectiveness of High-Intensity Versus Low-Intensity Back Schools in an Occupational Setting. In Spine. May 1, 2006. Vol. 31. No. 10. Pp. 1075-1082.