What risk factors predispose our employees to develop neck/low back pain?
Many risk factors have been identified, and include occupational as well as non-occupational factors.
The strongest occupational factors include:
Repetitive heavy lifting, twisting, reaching and bending
Repetitive manual material handling
Exposure to continuous whole-body vibration
Prolonged, static posture (especially if posture is awkward or confined)
Poor job satisfaction
Non-occupational factors include:
Poor physical condition (lack of exercise, overweight)
Psychosocial stressors, such as depression, financial factors
What can our company do to reduce low back injuries?
Train safety personnel and supervisors on proper material handling and lifting techniques so they in turn can train and supervise employees to follow through with proper techniques.
Provide appropriate equipment for the job (ie. an ergonomic office chair, mechanical assistive device for lifting heavy/awkward objects, cart on wheels to transport objects).
Keep work area and equipment properly maintained.
Allow task rotation (ie, move through different tasks during the day to avoid undue stress and repetition).
Alternate work tasks between sitting and standing to reduce postural (static muscle) fatigue.
Set up work area to minimize frequent reaching, leaning, twisting and bending.
Reduce employee fatigue by allowing stretch breaks.
Encourage employees to take part in a fitness program and/or provide a wellness program through your company.
Can we prevent long-term disability in employees with nonspecific low back pain?
Yes. The SpineCare team strongly believes the following factors are critical in preventing long term disability:
Early intervention (less than 6 weeks after injury).
Early paced activity and graded regular exercise avoiding deconditioning and reduce anxiety re-injury.
Timely regular communication among the treatment team, employer and employee early detection of “yellow flags” by the team that may hinder recovery and return to work such as depression, anxiety, job dissatisfaction and fear of re-injury.
Promote early safe return to work with support from employer, supervisors and co-workers such as allow return to work in modified capacity.
Allow onsite job assessment by SpineCare’s Ergonomic Evaluator Specialist who will assist the patient in integrating learned principals/techniques into work environment.
We have our own safety department to assess an injured employee's work area. How does that differ from a job analysis by SpineCare?
Our staff works with employees and with safety and human resources personnel to help employees incorporate correct body mechanics and lifting/material handling practices. We can also help identify critical job demands and ways to meet them efficiently and safely. This cooperative approach allows SpineCare and safety or human resources personnel to integrate back protection techniques for successful return to work, and helps employees integrate learned body mechanics and lifting techniques into daily work situations.
How soon can my employee return to usual duty after a spine injury?
This will vary depending on the type and severity of injury. Every person heals differently. Once your employee begins the stabilization program at SpineCare, the SpineCare team will reassess your injured employee’s ability to return to work. Clinical research has consistently shown that early return to work (even in a modified capacity) is associated with better overall outcome and lower costs. As back care providers in today’s market, we’re aware that managing healthcare costs is vital to employers.
How do I know the injured employee will not get re-injured upon return to work?
Every employee has the potential for injury. However, your employee’s increased knowledge of spine protection and stabilization/strengthening minimizes the risk of re-injury.
What can I, as the employer, do to facilitate return to work for the injured employee?
To facilitate return to work for the injured worker, tThe employer can follow the return to work recommendations provided by the SpineCare team. A well thought out and organized modified duty program to transition your injured employee back to work greatly facilitates our goal of early reactivation and return to work, both of which have shown to improve outcomes and reduce costs. An onsite job assessment by one of our Ergonomic Evaluator Specialists who can also assist the patient in integrating learned principals/techniques into work environment.
What about complicated cases? I've heard that the minority of back injuries result in the majority of the costs. What about surgery?
It is true that about 20 percent of injured workers account for over 80 percent of the costs for treatment and disability in the workplace. Although we don’t have all the answers to this problem, we do have a team of physicians, physical therapists, a clinical psychologist and other staff who work together to identify potentially complicated cases early on so that stakeholders–the employee, employer and treatment team–can work for the best possible outcome.
Internal auditing has shown our surgical rate to be the lowest in the community; however, sometimes surgery is necessary. At SpineCare, we are committed to identifying the need for surgery early to avoid the burdensome additional costs and risks associated with the delay of appropriate care, and to avoiding surgical treatment unless a well-defined need exists.