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Absence Resulting From Low Back Trouble Can Be Reduced by Psychosocial Intervention at the Work Place

Symonds Tara L. BSc; Burton, A. Kim PhD; Tillotson, K. Malcolm CStat; Main, Chris J. PhD
Psychosocial Factors: PDF Only

Study DesignA 1-year prospective study in industry, assessing effects of an educational pamphlet on various psychosocial parameters and absenteeism resulting from low back trouble.

ObjectivesTo determine the value of distributing an educational psychosocial pamphlet to reduce absenteeism resulting from back trouble. The pamphlet was designed to alter avoidance behaviors by encouraging a positive, active approach.

Summary of Background DataAttempts to control back-pain disability have failed. Fear of pain and activity seemingly leads to avoidance behaviors that contribute to chronicity and work loss. Avoidance behaviors are mediated by attitudes and beliefs; such attitudes and beliefs are a reasonable target for educational interventions designed to change “inappropriate” behaviors (e.g., extended absenteeism). Health education pamphlets are advocated widely but tested rarely.

MethodsThree factories participated in the study. Psychosocial data were collected by questionnaires; absence data were extracted from company records. A psychosocial pamphlet was distributed in one factory; the control subjects received either a nonspecific pamphlet or no intervention. The pamphlet emphasized a positive approach to low back trouble (reduction of negative beliefs and attitudes).

ResultsIn the company whose employees received pamphlets, a significant reduction occurred for the number of spells with extended absence and the number of days of absence (70% and 60%, respectively) compared with extrapolated values. A concomitant positive shift in beliefs concerning the locus of pain control and the inevitable consequences of low back trouble was found.

ConclusionsA simple industrial intervention using a psychosocial pamphlet, which was designed to reduce avoidance behaviors by fostering positive beliefs and attitudes, successfully reduced extended absence resulting from low back trouble.

© Lippincott-Raven Publishers.