Consecutive case series.
To determine whether the presence of Waddell's nonorganic signs in occupational, acute low back pain patients predicts a longer time before return to unrestricted regular work.
Summary of Background Data.
Waddell's nonorganic signs identify patients with chronic low back pain with a poor prognosis; however, they have not been used as an outcome predictor in patients with occupational, acute low back pain.
Standardized histories and physical examinations, including Waddell's signs were recorded at the first clinic visit (n = 143) by a single physician who was not blinded to the study's goals or methods. Those with chronic low back pain or complicating medical conditions (n = 88) were excluded. Data from patients exhibiting the nonorganic signs were compared with those from patients without the signs for time to return to regular work without restrictions and medical resource use.
Fifty-five patients with acute work-related low back pain were included. One or more of the nonorganic signs were seen in 14 patients (25.5%) at the first appointment. The most common signs were simulated axial loading (78.6%) and simulated rotation (71.4%). Those with any nonorganic sign required a median 58.5 days to return to regular work compared with 15.0 days for those without (P < 0.0001). Patients exhibiting any nonorganic sign compared with those without used more physical therapy (50.0% vs. 12.2%; P < 0.01) and lumbar computed axial tomography (21.4% vs. 0.0%; P = 0.01).
Patients with acute, occupational low back pain exhibiting Waddell's nonorganic signs had a four times lengthier time for return to unrestricted, regular work and a greater use of physical therapy and lumbar computed tomographic scans.