Objectives: To investigate the longitudinal patterns of recovery among workers with compensated occupational back injuries.
Methods: A longitudinal cohort study, with one-year follow-up via structured telephone interviews, among respondents off work because of “new” back injuries. Self-reported pain intensity was recorded at baseline and at four follow-up time points over the course of one year. Workers who answered the questionnaire on at least three occasions (n = 678) were classified into clusters according to their patterns of pain intensity over time using a two-step cluster analysis.
Results: Four pain recovery patterns were identified: workers with high levels of pain intensity showing no improvement over time (43%); those experiencing recovery in the first four months with no further improvement or possibly even some deterioration, in the second half year (33%); those experiencing a slow consistent recovery but still with considerable back pain at the end of the follow-up (12%); and those quickly progressing to low level of pain or resolution (12%). Trajectories of average Roland-Morris Disability scores and SF-36 Role of Physical scores for above clusters mapped consistently with the corresponding patterns in pain. However, individuals with fluctuating, recurrent pain patterns showed the shortest cumulative duration on 100% benefit and the earliest return-to-work among other clusters.
Conclusions: Four clinically sensible patterns were identified in this cohort of injured workers, suggesting inter-individual differences in back pain recovery. The results confirm that recurrent or chronic back pain is a typical condition in respondents with new back injuries. Pain intensity and disability scores are good measures of recovery of back pain at the individual level. After initial return-to-work, or cessation of benefits, administrative measures of percentage of respondents back at work, or no longer on benefits, may not accurately reflect an individual’s condition of back pain.
Statistics from Altmetric.com
If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.
The authors are employees of the Institute for Work & Health which is supported, in part, with funding from the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.