More control, fewer sickies

June 25, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Employees take fewer sickies if they have more control over their jobs, according to a new study.

As Western Australia struggles with a skilled labour shortage, a researcher and orthopaedic surgeon has published important findings on long work absences due to lower back pain.

Associate Professor Markus Melloh, from the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research and The University of Western Australia, was lead author on the internationally collaborative report: "Predictors of with a New Episode of Lower Back Pain in Primary Care".

He found the best way to prevent long absences from work (up to six months) due to lower back pain was to give employees a sense of empowerment and to ensure that their GPs followed up with them on a regular basis after their first appointment.

Associate Professor Melloh said patients with first-time lower back pain should see their doctor again after six weeks, otherwise their risk of long-term sickness absence could be missed by their GP and interventions, such as modifying their work situation, would not be implemented.

The study showed that workers with high job control had fewer days of when suffering from a new episode of back pain than others with lower job control, he said.

"For the first time, the risk of prolonged sick leave for people complaining of back pain can be averted by simple short-term measures such as talking to their supervisor, changing work hours and modifying work breaks. Long-term measures include greater empowerment within a job, such as more decision-making by the worker.

"Sickness absence due to an ongoing pain condition is a hot topic in Australia and throughout the world for a number of reasons," Associate Professor Melloh said.

"Australia has a shortage of skilled workers. Prolonged absence may lead to unemployment and reduced employability of a worker, and also indirect increase when workers are absent for too long."

The study monitored 310 patients who went to their GPs with back pain and took days off work. They were interviewed during the initial visit then followed up at three, six and 12 weeks and six months. At six months, 164 people were still participating and seven per cent were still on sick leave.

Associate Professor Melloh said back pain was a very important issue in Australia because the back was the most common site of pain for people of working age, from young to middle-aged adults.

The research has recently been presented at the World Forum for Spine Research in Helsinki.

Explore further: Unhappy work a pain in the back

Related Stories

Unhappy work a pain in the back

April 23, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- An international researcher based in Perth has found that workers who resign themselves to work in unsatisfactory jobs are more likely to suffer from serious, persistent lower back pain than others with ...

Back pain improves in first six weeks but lingering effects at one year

May 14, 2012
For people receiving health care for acute and persistent low-back pain, symptoms will improve significantly in the first six weeks, but pain and disability may linger even after one year, states a large study published in ...

Low back pain counseling strategy ups return to work

February 28, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Combining a disability evaluation with proactive counseling for workers with low back pain (LBP) results in a higher return-to-work rate, which is statistically significant at one year, according to a study ...

Recommended for you

Women who sexually abuse children are just as harmful to their victims as male abusers

August 21, 2017
"That she might seduce a helpless child into sexplay is unthinkable, and even if she did so, what harm can be done without a penis?"

Despite benefits, half of parents against later school start times

August 18, 2017
Leading pediatrics and sleep associations agree: Teens shouldn't start school so early.

Doctors exploring how to prescribe income security

August 18, 2017
Physicians at St. Michael's Hospital are studying how full-time income support workers hired by health-care clinics can help vulnerable patients or those living in poverty improve their finances and their health.

Schoolchildren who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try tobacco

August 17, 2017
Vaping - or the use of e-cigarettes - is widely accepted as a safer option for people who are already smoking.

Federal snack program does not yield expected impacts, researchers find

August 17, 2017
A well-intentioned government regulation designed to offer healthier options in school vending machines has failed to instill better snacking habits in a sample of schools in Appalachian Virginia, according to a study by ...

In a nutshell: Walnuts activate brain region involved in appetite control

August 17, 2017
Packed with nutrients linked to better health, walnuts are also thought to discourage overeating by promoting feelings of fullness. Now, in a new brain imaging study, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.