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Study finds long-term pain an issue for many injured workers


Photo: ljubaphoto/iStockphoto

Toronto — A recent study of injured workers in Ontario “reinforces the importance of modified duties (if necessary) and return-to-work planning,” researchers say after results showed 70% experienced persistent pain 18 months after being injured.

Researchers at the Institute for Work and Health interviewed more than 1,100 workers who had a lost-time compensation claim with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. The researchers followed up with the workers 18 months post-injury. Of the workers who were experiencing persistent pain during the follow-up, 45% reported having mild pain that interfered with some of their normal activities, while 25% indicated their pain was so severe that it led to serious impairment.

Further, reported pain levels were linked to time away from work. Compared with the participants who reported no pain, those with mild or severe pain were three and nine times, respectively, more likely to receive workers’ comp benefits for at least a year. Also, the more severe the pain, the more likely the workers were to report taking prescription opioids, using sedatives, and experiencing poor mental and physical health.


“Involving the injured worker in consultative return-to-work planning becomes especially important to enable the worker to feel engaged, and stay at work,” lead study author Kathleen Dobson, associate scientist at IWH, said in a press release.

The study was published online in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

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