Study design: A prospective longitudinal study.
Objective: To identify factors that influence absenteeism among soldiers with acute low back pain (ALBP).
Summary of background data: Recommendations for the treatment of low back pain include continuing physical activity. Ninety-seven percent of patients return to work within 1 month.
Methods: This was a prospective longitudinal study using a questionnaire to assess morbidity from ALBP and the job being carried out by the soldier at the time of referral to the army clinic and 6 weeks later. Potential associations were investigated between prolonged absenteeism and variables including disease indexes, use of healthcare services, the soldier's army job, and their satisfaction with it. RESULTS.: The study population consisted of 160 soldiers with uncomplicated ALBP. Eighty-six percent of the participants returned to their job within 6 weeks. The rates of improvement in pain, the mental functioning under pain, satisfaction with jobs, and having combat status were higher among soldiers who returned to their jobs as compared with those who did not. Those who did not return to their jobs had higher rates of utilization of healthcare services.
Conclusion: Nondisease factors are associated with the duration of absenteeism among soldiers with ALBP. Absenteeism is directly related to use of healthcare services.