Objective: To explore whether average time between opioid prescriptions is associated with shorter time off work.
Methods: Claims from 1422 work-related acute low back pain cases with at least two opioid prescriptions during the first month and at least 1 day of disability after the first month. Intended duration of first month opioid prescriptions was computed and averaged.
Results: After controlling for demographic and severity indicators, each additional week between opioid prescriptions predicted 14% longer disability (risk ratio, 1.14; 95% confidence interval, 1.06 to 1.22). This association remained robust in sensitivity analyses.
Conclusions: Fewer days between opioid prescriptions were associated with shorter time off work. The mechanism of this effect is unknown but may be related to provider's close monitoring of the patient's pain and function, as well as addressing barriers that may prevent workers from returning to work.