Back pain is a significant problem in America. In 2010, more than 10 million people experienced back pain. More than 200,000 of these patients are diagnosed with a herniated disc. Employees who experience back pain miss an average of 26 days of work and spend nearly 34 days in bed each year. While at work, back pain can affect productivity.
Past research has found herniated disc surgery to be an effective treatment option to ease the extreme back pain associated with herniation of a disc. However, until now, none of these studies accounted for lost productivity in the workplace. A new study, commissioned by AAOS and conducted by health economists, found surgery to be a cost-effective option for patients who used it, particularly because of its effect on productivity.
For example, terrible back pain following an injury on the field limited lacrosse coach Scott Hiller from coaching, and even made it difficult to perform everyday tasks such as walking around the house and holding his children. After trying non-operative treatments, Scott underwent disc herniation repair surgery and now is able to live a life without pain due to a herniated disc.
The study showed surgery can result in higher wages and, after recoverying from surgery, fewer missed workdays due to back pain. Specifically, patients receiving surgery earn an average of nearly $2,000 more and miss three fewer days per year than those who choose non-surgical treatments. Over a four-year period, those extra earnings average more than $7,000.
Furthermore, the study authors found these surgeries may result in savings to society when patients are relieved of their back pain over the long term.
- Lane Koenig, Timothy M. Dall, Qian Gu, Josh Saavoss, Michael F. Schafer. How Does Accounting for Worker Productivity Affect the Measured Cost-Effectiveness of Lumbar Discectomy? Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research®, 2014; 472 (4): 1069 DOI: 10.1007/s11999-013-3440-6