Could a European Study Shed Light on How to Reduce the Load on the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation System?

November 29, 2009, by Michael A. DeMayo

North Carolina workers’ compensation experts are constantly on the lookout for ways to protect workers better, reduce claim costs, and speed up recovery times. A new study out of Copenhagen, Denmark could provide fresh new policy ideas for how to protect state workers from lower back injuries — by challenging what are known as “fear-avoidance beliefs.”

According to a journal called BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, European National Research Center researchers studied over 2,600 healthcare workers to determine whether fear of lower back pain increased or decreased risk of actually developing musculoskeletal problems in the lower back area. In other words, could an anti-placebo effect develop? Could worry about hurting oneself in and of itself lead to injury?

The researchers apparently found a correlation between “fear-avoidance beliefs” and increased likelihood for getting hurt. So does this association prove that thinking fatalistic thoughts causes injury? Or could something else be driving the association?

If indeed it can be determined that thinking negative thoughts — that is, being afraid of going to work or doing certain on-the-job tasks — could cause injury, policymakers could work from this concept to develop a battery of solutions that could help drive down North Carolina workers’ compensation claims and costs. For instance, perhaps human resources managers could identify particularly pessimistic workers or workers who are otherwise afraid of certain pieces of machinery and retrain them to be less afraid and more “ergonomically ready” to tackle tasks.

If, on the other hand, the association between the development of musculoskeletal problems at work and fear of injury stems from some other root cause, then maybe modifications in worker thinking might not yield much benefit. For instance, let’s say that individuals who are more fearful of doing certain tasks are also in some other way more vulnerable to getting injured. Perhaps these individuals are malnourished, depressed/anxious or less self-confident than are individuals who demonstrate less of a fear-avoidance reaction. Perhaps one of these other factors is the key. In this scenario, the goal would be to help workers become more self confident, optimistic, etc. — rather than help them limit their fear avoidance.

If you’ve had the misfortune of developing lower back injury on the job, help is available. To navigate the system, consult a competent and battle proven North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney to discuss your situation in confidence.

More Web Resources:

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders Study

fear-avoidance beliefs