Most Common Cause of Disability: Neck and Back Pain

A recent study reported 2.4 billion work days were lost to physical problems causing disability. Another 1.3 billion days were lost to mental disorders. The survey showed that of all the conditions possible, neck and back pain were the most common causes of lost productivity.

Not all neck and back problems were the direct result of a true physical problem. Social factors, beliefs, and psychologic factors were also an important part of these conditions.

Workers were asked about days missed from work due to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and other mental and physical disorders. Over half responded that one or more of these problems kept them from work. On average, at least 30 disability days for each worker per year were reported.

Musculoskeletal problems, especially neck and back problems were at the top of the list. Many of the people had other problems as well. These are referred to as comorbidities. Comorbid illnesses are common among workers who lose work time due to disability.

The authors concluded that more money should be spent on research to reduce and/or eliminate neck and back problems. At the same time, other disabling conditions should be taken into account. A big picture view of human discomfort leading to work disability is important when planning future allocation of research funding and focus.

Billions of Lost Work and Disability Days Attributed to Back and Neck Problems. In The BACK Letter. November 2007. Vol. 22. No. 11. Pp. 123.

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