Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Early Therapy Heals Back Injuries

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Early Therapy Heals Back Injuries

Article excerpt

If it works for injured athletes, why can't it work for injured workers? New research suggests that, when sought early, physical therapy can help heal certain work-related back injuries, leading to reduced doctor visits, missed work days and overall workers' compensation costs.

According to a recent study, work-related injuries cost billions of dollars each year. Most of these expenses relate to nonmedical costs such as productivity losses and administrative costs.

Early physical therapy is often used to get athletes back in the game, but its effect in regard to work-related back disorders remains unexplored, according to Gary Z. Zigenfus and colleagues with Concentra Health Services Inc. in Addison, Texas.

To investigate, the team randomly assigned 3,867 workers with acute low-back injuries, mostly lumbar sprains, to one of three groups.

The first group received an initial physical therapy session the day they sustained the injury or the day after their injury occurred. Patients in the second group had their first session within two to seven days after the injury, and subjects in the third group received physical therapy eight to 197 days after the injury.

The study, published in the January issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found that patients who received physical therapy early averaged 3. …

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