The role of the primary care physician in reducing work absenteeism and costs due to back pain.

R. A. Deyo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


In many cases, the primary physician may best serve his or her patient's interests by encouraging an early return to work and avoidance of adversarial proceedings. Though data are fragmentary, it seems likely that these goals will be promoted by reassuring patients about the good prognosis of acute back pain and by avoiding alarming terminology (e.g., "injury," "ruptured disc"). Patients have a great need for explanation of their symptoms, but this can usually be met by brief, clear explanations from the physician and need not require extensive diagnostic testing. In most cases, a parsimonious diagnostic approach is appropriate, and this may reinforce the message that the illness is not serious and should be self-limited. For patients without neurologic deficits, very brief if any bed rest is necessary, and an early (if gradual) return to work is usually feasible. Many faddish treatments are widely promoted but rarely tested in a rigorous way. Anti-inflammatory drugs and intervention with adverse lifestyles (sedentariness, smoking, and obesity) provide important therapeutic and preventive opportunities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-30
Number of pages14
JournalOccupational medicine (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1988
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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