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Medical counseling helps workers with back pain return to work: study

August 15, 2012

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Leuven, Belgium – Workers on medical leave who receive reassurance and medical advice on staying active may return to work sooner when suffering low back pain, according to research from the University of Leuven.

For the study, 506 workers with low back pain were assigned to two groups – one that received counseling and disability evaluation, and a control group that received only a disability evaluation. Workers who were reassured their pain would resolve with time and were told to avoid bed rest and remain active were more likely to return to work, the study abstract stated. Only 4 percent of workers who received counseling did not return to work in a year, compared with 8 percent in the control group.

Additionally, fewer of the counseled workers ended up on medical leave again – 38 percent, compared with 60 percent of workers who were not given medical advice.

Researchers recommend giving medical advice within six weeks of workers going on medical leave to help prevent low back pain from becoming a chronic condition.

The study was published in the Aug. 1 issue of Spine.

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