Facility Safety Management

Weekly E-Newsletter

August 14, 2007

Use It or Lose It: Pain Avoidance May Not Be Best Strategy

By  Michael D. Shaw

When you’re injured on the job or elsewhere, the natural tendency is to baby the particular muscle group(s) involved. While that might work for a while, Ohio University researchers have found that you might just be setting yourself up for further injury.

In a study published in the July 15, 2007 issue of Spine, researchers Jim Thomas and Christopher France looked at 36 subjects, who were suffering sub-acute low back pain. The stated objective was to determine how the psychologic construct of pain-related fear maps to motor behavior in standardized reaching tasks.

The subjects were split into two groups: one that admitted to a high fear of aggravating the backache, and one was not so fearful.

Not surprisingly, the “fear” group went into unusual contortions in an attempt to baby the injury. The problem is that the protected muscle groups can weaken, and if they are recruited suddenly, such as to grab something that is falling, more injury can occur.

“It’s like if you run every day, and then a friend invites you to a game of racquetball,” Thomas said, noting that the sports use different muscle groups. “The next day you suddenly feel like you’ve been run over by a bus.”

Since back pain disability costs tens of billions of dollars every year in the U.S., we need to find the right way to deal with it.