As many people prepare to enjoy some extra time away from their jobs this Thanksgiving weekend, recent studies provide more insight on the relationship of missing time from work due to back pain and other injuries and illnesses.
In the past, exact estimates to the amount of work time missed because of back pain have varied, although back pain has been previously described as the second most common cause of missed workdays due to illness.
Earlier this week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its 2008 report on Nonfatal Occupational Injuries and Illnesses Requiring Days Away from Work and found that approximately 1.1 million work days were missed in the private industry for these reasons last year, which was down 7 percent as compared to 2007.
Some interesting findings in the report that were related to back pain included the following:
- Sprain or strain injuries in selected occupations (including laborers, truck drivers, nursing aides, construction laborers, retail salespersons, etc.) accounted for 39 percent of the 1.1 million missed days from work in 2008
- The back was injured in 40 percent of the sprain and strain cases involving these selected occupations
- Soreness and pain (including back pain) for these selected occupations accounted for 11 percent of the total injury and illness cases requiring days off from work.
The reported added that musculoskeletal disorders (also described as MSDs or ergonomic injuries in the report) accounted for 29 percent of the grand total of 1.1 million days missed from work because of injury or illness in 2008. More specifically, there were 317,440 cases of MSDs that required a median of 10 days away from work last year.
As recently detailed in The Spine Journal, another study examined more than 10,000 cases of non-occupational sick leave in Chile, finding that acute lower back pain represented 5.4% cases of work absences.
Regardless of where people live, the combination of these findings confirm the importance of not only employees and employers securing safe work environments and practices but patients making the effort to seek treatment, especially when their symptoms persist, and doctors continuing to understand and improve upon care.