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Components of Initial and Residual Disability After Back Injury in Nurses

Cooper, Juliette E. PhD, OT(C)*; Tate, Robert B. MSc†; Yassi, Annalee MD, MSc, FRCPC†‡

Functional Restoration

Study Design. A pre‐ versus postintervention with concurrent control group design was used to investigate the effect of a workplace‐based early intervention program on perception of disability in nurses with low back injury.

Objectives. This report examines changes over time in the components of the Oswestry Low Back Pain and Disability Questionnaire in two groups of back‐injured nurses‐those who received the early intervention program (study) and those who were not offered the program (control).

Summary of Background Data. Early intervention programs can decrease morbidity, time lost from work, and compensation costs. Although perception of disability decreases, some residual disability remains, the nature of which is not clear.

Methods. The Oswestry Low Back Pain and Disability Questionnaire scores of 40 study nurses and 118 control nurses at time of injury and at 6 months after injury were examined. Analysis of variance was used to compare changes in mean overall scores over time. The proportion of nurses reporting disability on individual components of the Oswestry Low Back Pain and Disability Questionnaire at each time period was compared with the results of a chi‐square test.

Results. Overall Oswestry Low Back Pain and Disability Questionnaire scores were similar between study and control nurses at time of injury, but were significantly lower in study nurses at 6 months after injury. However, scores of individual Oswestry Low Back Pain and Disability Questionnaire components that related to job demands increased over time; this was most apparent in lifting, particularly in study nurses.

Conclusions. Although overall perception of disability decreased 6 months after injury, particularly in study nurses, disability in job‐related activities persisted. Residual disability after back injury should be addressed in workplace‐based prevention programs.

From the *Division of Occupational Therapy, University of Manitoba, and the Occupational Therapy Department, Health Sciences Centre, Winnipeg, the †Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, and the ‡Department of Medicine, University of Manitoba, and the Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Health Sciences Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Funded by the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba.

Acknowledgment date: July 1, 1997.

First revision date: December 4, 1997.

Second revision date: February 5, 1998.

Acceptance date: March 2, 1998.

Device status category: 1.

Address reprint requests to: Dr. A. Yassi, Director; Department of Occupational and Environmental; Medicine; University of Manitoba, S112, 750 Bannatyne Avenue; Winnipeg, MB R3E 0W3; Canada; E‐mail:

© 1998 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins