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Addressing the Interacting Effects of Pain with a Holistic Safety Approach

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Written by Dell Dorn

While the primary effects of pain such as carpal tunnel injuries or back pain are well known to cause a decrease in productivity and increase workers’ compensation costs, the secondary effects such as those on mental health are much less emphasized when talking about pain management solutions. In our recent white paper, The Psychological and Secondary Effects of Pain, we seek to bring awareness to these secondary effects. We also discuss how addressing pain management from a Total Worker Health® perspective can alleviate both primary and secondary effects of pain as well as reduce healthcare and workers’ compensation claims.

Pain is the number one cause of disability in the U.S. Approximately 4 in 10 Americans say that pain interferes with their daily life. Work is challenging to those who suffer from chronic pain. People who suffer from chronic pain at work either keep working and don’t seek medical help at all, or are treated for their pain too late. This increases the risk of making the injury much worse and also increases costs for the employer. When pain is left untreated for a long time, it can cause a compounding effect: the more the pain persists, the more impact it can have, and can lead to secondary effects such as chronic anxiety and depression.

Interacting Effects of Pain

The problem of chronic pain is deeply intertwined with mental health. Stress causes muscles to tighten and adversely affects the nervous system that often worsen over time. One effect can lead to another, and when the primary and secondary effects interact, it creates a kind of feedback loop. These secondary effects often exacerbate the primary effects of musculoskeletal pain. Here are some of the key secondary effects:

  • Cognitive effects such as faulty or fuzzy memory
  • Negative impact on sleep
  • Impact on exercise
  • Impact on diet such as unhealthy eating patterns
  • Impact on morale and work satisfaction
  • Impact on overall quality of life

Strategy For Reducing Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain

The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a National Pain Strategy in 2016 outlining the federal government’s first coordinated plan for reducing the chronic musculoskeletal pain that affects millions of Americans. Here are the 4 pillars outlined in the strategy:

  • Developing methods and metrics to monitor and improve the prevention and management of pain.

 

  • Supporting the development of a system of employee-centered integrated pain management practices based on a model of care that enables providers and recipients to access the full spectrum of pain treatment options.

 

  • Taking steps to reduce barriers to pain care and improve the quality of care for vulnerable, stigmatized, and underserved populations.

 

  • Increasing organizational awareness of pain, increasing knowledge of treatment options and risks, and helping to develop a better informed workforce with regard to pain management.

 

Total Worker Health®

Employers are increasingly recognizing the connectivity between wellness, safety, and risk management. Total Worker Health®, or the NIOSH-developed practice of looking at employee health from a holistic point of view, is an effective strategy when exploring pain management solutions. DORN’s onsite early intervention programs are easily incorporated into the Total Worker Health model. DORN’s programs combine manual therapy with training and reinforcement to help support sustainable healthy habits. Here are some of the results from last year’s Survey on the Efficacy of Worksite Pain Management.

Based on surveys of 3,000 employees worked on annually:

  • Average of 55% reduction in pain levels
  • 42% reduction in medication usage
  • 80% increase in exercise frequency
  • 99% reported large improvement on morale
  • Saved organizations over $3 million in 2016

Ignoring early stage pain will increase the likelihood of exacerbating it, which in turn can cause a number of secondary effects. DORN’s programs seek to address pain in the early stages as well as put in place preventative measures so that the issues do not become chronic. We provide pain management programs from a holistic perspective that are proven to simultaneously alleviate the primary and secondary effects of pain, as well as reduce workers’ compensation claims and long term healthcare costs. To find out more about secondary effects of pain, the U.S. Department of Health’s strategy for reducing chronic muscular pain, and the results of our 2016 Survey on the Efficacy of Worksite Pain Management, download our white paper, The Psychological and Secondary Effects of Pain, here for free.

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About the Author

Dell Dorn

Dell Dorn is the founder of DORN Companies. He started DORN in 1998 to help employers save money on workers' compensation claims and reduce OSHA recordables. Today, DORN customers realize the immense cost of employee pain and the enormous impact our service has on employee morale and their bottom line.
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Dell Dorn

Dell Dorn is the founder of DORN Companies. He started DORN in 1998 to help employers save money on workers' compensation claims and reduce OSHA recordables. Today, DORN customers realize the immense cost of employee pain and the enormous impact our service has on employee morale and their bottom line.
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