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Workers with back injuries may recover faster with therapy

Being injured on the job not only results in physical injuries but also can financially impact a worker. In addition certain injuries can actually cause more complications than just the initial injury. For example, back pain can actually cause pain elsewhere, such as in the legs and feet.

When a back injury occurs as a result of a work accident, the employee is entitled to workers' compensation to help with medical bills and lost wages. Often, workers' compensation will also help an injured worker get treatment so that they can return to work. Recently spinal fusion surgery has become popular for people who suffer from chronic back pain. But a study has shown that spinal fusion surgery may actually be worse for workers' compensation patients.

The research is showing that spinal fusion surgery does not effectively treat back pain for injured employees when compared with other nonsurgical treatments, such as physical therapy. More patients that underwent spinal fusion surgery experienced complications, permanent disability, and even repeat surgery when compared with patients who opted for physical therapy.

Despite the growing popularity of this particular surgical procedure, the study raises the question of whether this surgery can actually help workers' compensation patients. Instead of helping the injured worker recover from back pain, it seems to do the opposite by increasing the risk of disability and even reliance on pain medication.

Suffering from a work-related back injury can affect an employee's ability to perform their job duties. In fact, any type of work-related injury can have an impact on performance. When an injured worker seeks medical treatment for the injury, the hope is that the treatment will actually help with the pain, not make it worse.

Source: Medical News Today online, "Spinal Fusion Surgery Provides Worse Outcomes In Workers' Compensation Patients," 16 February 2011

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