Factors affecting work status of employees with chronic back pain in South Africa

Spavins, Megan Heather
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Background: Numerous factors influence work status in employees with chronic back pain. The objective of this study was to identify those factors which were most significantly associated with long term absence from work. Methods: The design entailed a sample of employees diagnosed with chronic back pain referred for functional capacity evaluation. Quantitative, descriptive, cross sectional and multivariate correlation study design was used. Fifty-seven Clients participated. Outcomes were defined using self-report questionnaires, two lifting tasks and a dynamic and static posturing assessment. This study was performed within an occupational therapy private practice setting in South Africa. Results: Multivariate logistic regression analysis indicated significant adjusted odds ratios (OR) for kneeling (OR 7.6; CI 1.27-45.29), waist to floor lift (OR 3.8 CI 0.99-14.9) and depression (OR 2.7; CI 0.71-10.4). Conclusion: This study supported current views that work status in employees with chronic back pain was affected by both physical and psychological factors. Kneeling, lifting from floor to waist and depression were factors most significantly associated with employees with chronic back pain not being at work. Occupational therapists taking referrals for FCEs need to integrate these factors into their assessment in order to make informed recommendations regarding capacity for work in clients with chronic back pain.
A dissertation submitted to the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Occupational Therapy. Johannesburg, October 2011