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WCRI analyzes relationship of comorbidities to lower back pain


Comorbidities most often associated with workers compensation claims involving lower back injuries are hypertension, arthritis, sleep dysfunction, depression, anxiety and panic disorders, and many claimants in these cases report multiple comorbidities, according to a study released Tuesday by the Workers Compensation Research Institute.

The study, Comorbidities and Recovery after Physical Therapy for Low Back Pain, looked at the prevalence of self-reported comorbidities and their relationship to functional improvements.

The study found that comorbidities such as sleep dysfunction, severe obesity and kidney disease were more strongly associated with smaller functional improvements and also that the timeliness of physical therapy services for workers suffering from lower back issues correlated with improved functional outcomes.

Researchers also found that mental health comorbidities were more prevalent in chronic low back comp claims than workers suffering from acute back pain.

The study notes that statistics on comorbidities are often under-identified because these secondary injuries are rarely covered in workers comp.

Data used in the study came from Focus on Therapeutic Outcomes and looked at claimants receiving outpatient physical therapy nationwide between 2017 and 2021.