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Back and neck factoids

Back and neck injuries account for a third of all workers comp claims costs. That’s no surprise to industry types, and is a further affirmation of how tough it can be to manage comp claims.
Back injuries can be notoriously difficult to resolve, expensive to treat and impossible to determine if a back injury was related to employment.

Remember, medical issues and treatment thereof can vary dramatically across jurisdictions. WCRI also reports that this type of claim is even more prevalent in NY, where over 38% of claims are for back/neck injuries. Why the difference?
I’m also curious about Texas, long the poster child for a dysfunctional WC system. There’s good news here, as back/neck injuries are less common than in NY or the rest of the country. 31% of comp claims are for back and neck injuries; a deeper look reveals the cost for treating lower back nerve compression injuries jumped 16% in one year; Could the cost increase be related to the fact that chiropractic consumes more of the claims dollar in Texas than in any other state?
What does this mean for you?
More evidence that generic approaches to managing WC medical are too, well, generic. Clearly payers need different strategies in different jurisdictions.

3 thoughts on “Back and neck factoids”

  1. I can’t help but think that if those managing WC programs were to be more receptive to non-surgical non-medicinal approaches like low intensity laser therapy (which does have scientific backing) that the costs of workers comp claims and programs would be reduced and the number of man hours lost due to back and neck injury would be significantly improved.

  2. Having worked claims in NY, CA and TX, I can tell you that none are easy to manage and too many times an IW ends up hooked either on a palliative treatment that goes on forever such as Chiropractic, they are given proceedure after proceedure without any real “cure” or they are strung out on narcotics to the tune of 30K/month. {No, that is not a typo}. So I ask, if low intensity laser treatment is the answer, how come there are not more studies out thier proving its value and why aren’t adjusters suggesting it to all these injured workers?
    Just wondering

  3. To my surprise BMJ Evidence Based Medicine does support the use of LLLT for shoulder pain. There is no cure for WC or back pain. There is only control. All practitioners and legislators must work together for fair guidelines. Education of patieints, employers, and physicians is the key. Patients want tests and subsequently doctors to explain what is wrong and how to cure their pain/problem. I can’t lie to them. At an annual ABS seminar round table discussion I asked a self appointed expert a purposely controversial question attacking his narrow-minded view on not actively treating LBP until patient’s symptoms require his new IDET procedure. Increased costs?
    The experts all argued as usual. What would the take home message be for a lay person? Even experts don’t know. Pretty reassuring for a LBP sufferer and the practitioners! The big question is how do we motivate less passive and more active care along with avoiding the true causes of NMS problems? The problem is our societies mindset on healthcare responsibilties
    and the insurance game/lobby. The lack of research and co-operation between competing practitoners and insurance companies needs to end for solutions to be found.

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates



A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.



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