Workers' compensation cases make up a significant portion of our practice, so we can answer most of your workers' compensation-related questions, as well as any other questions about work-related injuries.
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) include a group of conditions that involve the nerves, tendons, muscles, and supporting structures such as intervertebral discs. They represent a wide range of disorders, which can differ in severity from mild periodic symptoms to severe chronic and debilitating conditions. Examples include carpal tunnel syndrome, tenosynovitis, tension neck syndrome, and low back pain.
Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSDs) are musculoskeletal disorders caused or made worse by the work environment. WMSDs can cause severe and debilitating symptoms such as pain, numbness, and tingling; reduced worker productivity; lost time from work; temporary or permanent disability; inability to perform job tasks; and an increase in workers compensation costs. Musculoskeletal disorders are often confused with ergonomics. Ergonomics is the science of fitting workplace conditions and job demands to the capabilities of workers. In other words, musculoskeletal disorders are the problem and ergonomics is a solution.
How Common Are Musculoskeletal Disorders?
Musculoskeletal disorders of any cause are among the most prevalent medical problems, affecting 7% of the population and accounting for 14% of physician visits and 19% of hospital stays. When looking specifically at work-related musculoskeletal disorders, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that in 1995, 62% (308,000) of all illness cases were due to disorders associated with repeated trauma. This figure does not include back injuries. BLS also reports that the number of cases of repeated trauma has increased significantly, rising from 23,800 cases in 1972 to 332,000 cases in 1994-a fourteenfold increase. In 1995 the number of cases decreased by 7% to 308,000 reported cases, but this number still exceeds the number of cases in any year prior to 1994. When looking specifically at cases involving days away from work, for which more detailed information is available, BLS reports that in 1994, approximately 32% or 705,800 cases were the result of overexertion or repetitive motion. This figure includes back injuries.
What Are Some Risk Factors For Work-Related Injuries?
Repetitive, forceful, or prolonged exertions of the hands; frequent or heavy lifting, pushing, pulling, or carrying of heavy objects; prolonged awkward postures; and vibration contribute to WMSDs. Jobs or working conditions that combine risk factors will increase the risk for musculoskeletal problems. The level of risk depends on how long a worker is exposed to these conditions, how often they are exposed, and the level of exposure.
Preventing Work-Related Injuries
Injury prevention and ergonomic programs are designed to reduce the number of injuries occurring in the workplace. Since the best way to treat an injury is to never get it in the first place, a proactive approach involving strategic planning to minimize injury should be taken by all employers and employees, especially where the risk of injury is high. This would include workers who sit for extended periods of time, perform repetitive movements, and workers who lift or move heavy objects.
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Utah Worker's Compensation Study
Fewer Costs and Days LostThis 1988 Utah workers' compensation board study found a tenfold savings for mean compensation costs in back-related injuries treated by chiropractors as compared with medical doctors ($68.38 vs. $668.39). To ensure accurate and true results, only those back-related injuries with the same diagnostic codes were compared between the two treatment groups. Also, the medical treatments assessed were limited to nonsurgical medical treatments only.
Citation: Cost per Case Comparison of Back Injury Claims of Chiropractic versus medical Management for Conditions with Identical Diagnostic Codes. Jarvis KB, et al. Journal of Occupational Medicine - 1991;33:847-52.
Florida Worker's Compensation Study
Shorter Disability, Lower Costs, and Lower Hospitalization RatesThis large study - conducted by the State of Florida - examined 10,652 patients who sustained back-related injuries on the job. Their findings revealed individuals who received chiropractic care compared with standard medical care experienced had a (i) 51.3 percent shorter temporary total disability duration (ii) lower treatment cost by 58.8 percent (iii) 20.3 percent hospitalization rate in the chiropractic care group vs. 52.2 percent rate in the medical care group.
Citation: An Analysis of Florida Workers' Compensation Medical Claims for Back Related Injuries. Wolk S. Foundation for Chiropractic Education and Research, Arlington, VA. - 1988.
California Worker's Compensation Study
Chiropractic Patients Get Back to Work SoonerIn this study, Richard Wolf, MD followed 500 individuals sent for chiropractic treatments and 500 individuals sent to medical doctors for treatment. Those who received chiropractic treatments returned to work in an average of 15.6 days vs. 32 days in those who received treatments from medical doctors.
Citation: Industrial Back Injury. Wolf CR. International Review of Chiropractic - 1974;26:6-7.
Oregon Worker's Compensation Study
Chiropractic Gets Individuals Back to Work QuicklyThis Oregon study found that individuals with workers' compensation claims returned to work significantly faster under chiropractic care compared with medical care. In fact, under chiropractic care 82% were able to return to work after one week compared with only 41% in those who received medical care.
Citation: A Study of Time Loss Back Claims. Portland, OR. Workers' Compensation Board, State of Oregon, March 1971.
Australian Worker's Compensation Study
In this Australian study, 1,996 workers' compensation cases were evaluated in patients who experienced work-related mechanical low back pain. It was found that those individuals who received chiropractic care for their back pain returned to work 4 times faster (6.26 days vs. 25.56 days) and had treatment that cost 4 times less ($392 vs. $1,569) than those who received treatments from medical doctors. Also, in those patients who received chiropractic care there was a significantly lower incidence of progression to a chronic low back pain status
Citation: Mechanical Low-Back Pain: A Comparison of Medical and Chiropractic Management Within the Victorian Work Care Scheme. Ebrall, PS. Chiropractic Journal of Australia - 1992;22:47-53.
The Manga Report
Back to Work... and Fast!According to this Canadian government commissioned study, "...injured workers ... diagnosed with low-back pain returned to work much sooner when treated by chiropractors than by physicians."
Citation: The Effectiveness and Cost Effectiveness of Chiropractic Management of Low-Back Pain (The Manga Report). Pran Manga and Associates (1993) - University of Ottawa, Canada.