Study design: Randomized controlled trial.
Objective: To test the ability of an educational pamphlet to improve recovery in terms of pain, work status, and health care utilization after occupational low back injury.
Background: Low back pain and disability persist as occupational health problems of epidemic proportions. Because interventions based on biomechanical models have had limited impact, recent educational approaches to preventing back problems have stressed psychosocial recovery issues.
Methods: A pamphlet was developed by compiling activity resumption, self-care, and attitudinal advice from recent publications. The pamphlet was sent at random to half of all consenting workers reporting back pain within 11 days of occupational injury between 7/96 and 6/97. Three and 6 months later, back pain, work status, health care use, and pamphlet impact outcomes were assessed through structured telephone interviews.
Results: Of the 726 eligible workers, 486 consented to participate. Consenters and nonconsenters and intervention and control groups were similar in initial demographic variables. The pamphlet had no statistically significant impact at the 0.05 significance level on pain severity or reduction, health care visits, or work absence. Of the 229 pamphlet recipients, 129 thought it had provided useful information, but only 25 thought it had helped them return to work more quickly.
Conclusions: In this trial, a pamphlet stressing psychosocial recovery issues did not prevent or reduce postinjury pain, health care use, or work absence.