Workers With Low Back Pain Benefit From Integrated Care

WEDNESDAY Dec. 1, 2010 -- Workers with chronic low back pain can be treated for substantially less cost by using an integrated approach to care instead of traditional medical care, a new study suggests.

Chronic back pain is an enormous financial burden in developed countries, with 93 percent of the losses having to do with lost workplace productivity. Partly for this reason, researchers in the Netherlands tested a new approach among 134 patients, aged 18-65, on sick leave from work due to chronic low back pain. They were randomly assigned to receive traditional care (68 patients) or integrated care (66 patients).

Integrated care included workplace assessments, treatment with graded exercise, and reassurance that despite pain, it was safe to move while increasing activity levels. The goal of integrated care was to enable a lasting return to work and improve quality of life.

All the patients in the study were surveyed at regular intervals over 12 months to assess how often they sought care and how often they missed work.

The patients in the integrated care group sought health care less often, had shorter stays in hospital, were more successful in making a sustained return to work, and had greater improvement in quality of life.

After one year, total costs in the integrated care group were $20,477, compared with $28,736 in the usual care group. Further analysis showed that for every $1.55 spent on integrated care, there was a return of an estimated $40.44.

The study was published online Nov. 30 in the British Medical Journal.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about low back pain.

Posted: December 2010


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