Objectives. Back pain is the most common reason for filing workers' compensation claims and often causes lost workdays. Data from the 1988 National Health Interview Survey were analyzed to identify high-risk industries and to estimate the prevalence of work-related back pain and number of workdays lost. Methods. Analyses included 30074 respondents who worked during the 12 months before the interview. A case patient was defined as a respondent who had back pain every day for a week or more during that period. Results. The prevalence of lost-workday back pain was 4.6%, and individuals with work-related cases lost 101.8 million workdays owing to back pain. Male and female case patients lost about the same number of workdays. Industries in high-risk categories were also identified for future research and intervention, including those seldom studied. Conclusions: This study provides statistically reliable national estimates of the prevalence of back pain among workers and the enormous effect of this condition on American industry in terms of lost workdays.
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