Is one type of spinal pain more debilitating than the next?

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Suffering from a combination of neck pain and sciatica may prove more debilitating than back pain alone.

Although previous research has examined the economic impact of back and neck pain on employees, most studies have evaluated each condition separately.
To assess the combined impact of multi-site spinal pain, Finnish researchers surveyed 6, 934 municipal employees. 15% of women and 23% of men suffered from low-back pain, sciatica, or neck pain.

While having at least one type of pain increased participants’ risk of sick leave, suffering from multiple types of spinal pain exacerbated that risk. Over the course of three years, participants with both neck pain and sciatica had the highest number of medically-certified sick days. Compared to women without pain, those with sciatica and neck pain were twice as likely to have medically-certified sick days.

Researchers suggested that employee health care address the multiple site of spinal pain to prevent decreased work ability.

Kääriä S, Laaksonen M, et al. Scan J Public Health 2012; 40: doi  10.1177/1403494811435490.

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