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Long-Term Prescriptions Could Delay Your Return to Work

Posted By Arnold & Itkin || 23-Apr-2018

The Workers Compensation Research Institute recently released a study that looked at how workers with low back pain performed when going back to work. The study looked at 5 years' worth of workers comp claims and compared workers with otherwise similar types of pain...but with one difference: Some workers did not receive a prescription for an opioid painkiller, and other workers received prescriptions within 3 months of their injury (and refilled them at least 3 times within less than a year).

According to their findings, workers who took a prescription painkiller needed to stay on temporary disability 2.5 times longer than their non-prescription counterparts–and that's accounting for the employer, the line of work, and the extent of the injury.

Opioid Painkillers Could Cause Workers More Harm Than Good

Current treatment guidelines discourage the use of opioids to treat non-surgical low back pain, but workers still end up receiving prescriptions from their doctors–sometimes to their detriment. In fact, the study noted that the area where the worker lived was a predictor of whether they would receive opioids, rather than just the pain itself.

For instance, if two identical workers receive identical injuries, with one worker living in an area that provides opioids 10 percent more often than the other worker's city, then the first worker is 2.6 percent more likely to receive a prescription.

That doesn't sound like a lot, but think about that situation: a worker with the exact same injury could be prescribed painkillers in one city and not be in another. At that point, whether or not a worker can get back to work will rely more on luck and real estate than their actual injury.

The Idea Is to Move Forward

Ensuring you receive the best medical care possible after your injury will help you rebuild your life faster. Researchers believe that physical therapy and non-surgical treatment could reduce one-year costs for low back pain by 72 percent. It's in your best interests to find a doctor who has your long-term health in mind.

Unfortunately, a lot of workers simply can't afford that kind of quality medical care after an accident. With pressure to get back to work, too many workers shortchange their own health–leading to longer-term costs and chronic pain. That's why it's vital for injured workers to call Arnold & Itkin. We maximize workers' comp claims to help people get back on their feet for good.

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