Study design: A prospective cohort study was conducted on workers claiming earnings-related compensation for low back pain. Information obtained at the time of the initial claim was linked to compensation status (still claiming or not claiming) 3 months later.
Objective: To identify individual, psychosocial, and workplace risk factors associated with the transition from acute to chronic occupational back pain.
Summary of background data: Despite the magnitude of the economic and social costs associated with chronic occupational back pain, few prospective studies have investigated risk factors identifiable in the acute stage.
Methods: At the time of the initial compensation claim, a self-administered questionnaire was used to gather information on a wide range of risk factors. Then 3 months later, chronicity was determined from claimants' computerized records.
Results: The findings showed that 3 months after the initial assessment, 204 of the recruited 854 claimants (23.9%) still were receiving compensation payments. A combined multiple regression model of individual, psychosocial, and workplace risk factors demonstrated that severe leg pain (odds ratio [OR], 1.9), obesity (OR, 1.7), all three Oswestry Disability Index categories above minimal disability (OR, 3.1-4), a General Health Questionnaire score of at least 6 (OR, 1.9), unavailability of light duties on return to work (OR, 1.7), and a job requirement of lifting for three fourths of the day or more all were significant, independent determinants of chronicity (P < 0.05).
Conclusions: Simple self-report measures of individual, psychosocial, and workplace factors administered when earnings-related compensation for back pain is claimed initially can identify individuals with increased odds for development of chronic occupational disability.