Pioneering New Back Pain Relief Technique To Go National
A University of Leicester Medical Department has just received £650,000 funding from the Government to develop nationwide a pioneering technique in back pain relief that has been successfully trialled by Leicestershire Hospitals.
The award will fund a multi-centre,
randomised, controlled trial that is expected to reverse previous assumptions
about the work prospects of people with long-term pain-related inability.
The new techniques developed at Leicester
involve integrating health care, employment training and vocational assistance
into work. The aim is to identify a person’s potential rather than the
barriers presented by the back disability, and develop their employability in
the eyes of local employers.
The team includes physiotherapists,
psychologists and private industries recruited to offer opportunities to those
with back pain. The candidates go through an intense six-week activity programme
with later follow up to assist them into work.
The funding, which comes from the
Department of Work and Pensions, will allow the team of researchers from the
University, led by Dr Paul Watson from the Department of Anaesthesia, Pain
Management and Critical Care, to pursue their investigations.
Dr Watson is the first person in the country to work as a Consultant
Physiotherapist at the University of Leicester Hospitals NHS Trust.
Findings so far have indicated that
disease and pain are less important in work absence and unemployment than
psychosocial factors.They suggest that people with pain-associated disabilities
can work if they can overcome the considerable psychological and physical
barriers to work and if suitable rehabilitation is provided.
This could be both cost-effective for the state and fulfilling for people
with such disabilities.
Money could therefore be diverted from
benefits to rehabilitation into sustainable employment.
At a conservative estimate, the healthcare cost for back pain alone was
£1.6 billion in 1999 and the indirect costs of benefits and lost production in
industry amounted to £10.7 billion. Benefits
associated with wage replacement considerably outweigh the cost of healthcare to
help people back into work. People with
chronic pain accounted for 80 per cent of these costs.
Traditionally, a person out of work for
more than two years due to chronic pain has only a 2-10 per cent chance of ever
working again and will remain on benefits. The
number of people with back pain on Incapacity Benefits doubled in the ten years
between 1988 and 1998. This was not because more people got back pain, but
because once on benefits they found it difficult to get off them. This is
due to the attitudes of employers, patients, healthcare providers, employment
services and the social welfare system.
After six months pioneering a vocational
rehabilitation programme for unemployed people with chronic pain, University of
Leicester researchers found that 39.5 per cent of clients on the programme were
employed and a further 25.7 per cent were engaged in job-training, education or
An increasingly ageing workforce will
bring an increase in the number of pain-related problems.
As birth rates fall, employers will no longer be able to replace workers
with chronic pain by younger staff. New
approaches need to be developed to help people with pain-related symptoms to
continue in work.
The new multi-centre trials will
determine the type of programme most suitable for people with different degrees
of pain-related disabilities, and will carry out an in-depth socio-economic
assessment of the proposed programme.
Dr Paul Watson Senior Lecturer in Pain
Management and Rehabilitation at the University of Leicester said: “The government seems determined to reduce the amount paid to
people on benefits. Living on low benefits is very difficult, we believe that
people must be given the best opportunity of getting help to allow them to get
the advantages from employment most of us take for granted.
“The University of Leicester is leading
the way in respect to interdisciplinary medical research. Using this method, people who had been off work for an average of
four years (ie: with little chance of ever getting back to work) were able to
get back to paid employment.
“This potentially represents a massive
saving in benefit payments and restores patients’ quality of life, self esteem
and earning potential.”
TO EDITORS: Further
information is available from Dr Paul Watson University of Leicester Department
of Anaesthesia and Pain Management, telephone 0116 258 4613, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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