“I can’t believe how much my low back hurts! I don’t know if I can go to work with it like this!”
Does this sound familiar? Have you ever missed work because of low back pain? Well, if you have, then you’re certainly not alone! In fact, over 80% of the general population seeks some type of healthcare provision at some point in life because of low back pain and many of those may miss work because of it. Lost work time is often associated with not being able to tolerate certain positions such as prolonged sitting, standing, bending, twisting, reaching, or a combinations of these activities. Sometimes, just getting to work is next to impossible as the car ride alone may intolerable! There is nothing more depressing than not being able to move due to a sharp knife-like feeling in the back every time you try to change positions.
However, it’s one thing to lose a day or two or even a week of work but what about those who can’t work for longer time periods, like several weeks or even months? This type of back pain can be life-altering because avoiding movement for fear of pain can quickly lead to muscle weakening, weight gain, lethargy, depression, and a host of other negative symptoms. With limited success, many researchers have sought ways to identify low back pain patients who might be at the greatest risk for not improving or becoming disabled. The term “yellow flags” has been used to describe such factors. In May 2009, another study attempted to identify injured workers who were at risk for becoming disabled or who may be unable to return to work for at least 3 months. Of the 346 injured workers who were followed for 6 months after the sick leave period began, 47% failed to return to work. There were five questions found to adequately screen those who were not able to return to work or were at greatest risk of becoming disabled. The 5 questions were:
- Do you expect to return to work within 6 months?
- How much does the pain interfere in your daily activities?
- It is not advisable to be physically active?
- Do you feel generally nervous?
- Do you feel generally scared?
The good news is that many back pain-causing injuries can be successfully treated by conservative means, such as chiropractic care.