Pamphlets Won't Help Patients Get Back to Work More Quickly After Back Injury
WebMD News Archive
June 23, 2000 -- If you've ever had a work injury that resulted
in low back pain, you probably knew you weren't going to die, even though you
felt like it. If you got a pamphlet in the mail reassuring you that you would
recover, and giving you some healthy back tips, would this pamphlet help you
get back to work sooner?
If you answered "no," you would be in the majority.
According to an article published in a recent issue of the journal
Spine, educational pamphlets were found to be ineffective in reducing
back-related disability following a work-related low back injury. These
findings are particularly disappointing given that patient education has been a
popular strategy recently in the medical community's efforts to reduce
However, the investigators are hopeful that the problem with
pamphlets will be solved by fine-tuning the message and the medium. "Even
the best educational method will not reduce disability without effective
content," the authors write. For example, a better place and way to educate
people with work-related back injuries may help them recover faster. In this
study, the only education was a pamphlet sent in the mail. Patients who are
back to work may also benefit from seminars at the workplace. However, the
authors acknowledge that employees usually see sessions involving mandatory
participation as a big yawn.
It's important to know that these findings only pertained to
patients whose injuries were sustained at work, lead author Rowland G. Hazard,
MD, tells WebMD. "In this population of patients with back pain reporting
work-related injury, just giving them a pamphlet is not enough to change their
disability outcomes," he says. The study didn't measure the effectiveness
of such a pamphlet for patients with injuries due to other causes. Hazard is a
professor of orthopaedics and rehabilitation at the University of Vermont in
Burlington, and the director of intensive rehabilitation at the Spine Institute
of Vermont in Williston.
He and his colleagues identified 726 workers who had reported
back pain within 11 days of an injury on the job. Of the 488 who consented to
participate, 229 of them were sent an educational pamphlet in the mail. In
follow-up telephone interviews, 87% of those who were sent a pamphlet recalled
getting it, and more than half thought that it had been helpful. Unfortunately,
only 25 (11%) thought the pamphlet had aided their return to work.