Daily medication usage and the risk of long-term sickness absence
Several types of pain relievers are available in the market which advantages and risks other than just providing pain relief. This study was performed to ascertain the prospective association between use of pain medication due to musculoskeletal pain in the low back, neck/shoulder and hand/wrist and long-term sickness absence.
This is a prospective cohort study among the general working population (Danish Work Environment Cohort Study 2010) in which the Cox- regression analysis was performed to estimate the prospective association between regular use of pain medication and long-term sickness absence (LTSA; at least 6 consecutive weeks) among 9,544 employees and unbound from LTSA during 2009-2010. This fully adjusted model was regulated for gender, body mass index, age, physical activity at work, smoking, leisure physical activity, job group, psychosocial work environment, chronic disease, pain intensity and mental health.
The percent of regular pain medication users due to musculoskeletal disorders was 20.8%: 13.4% as over-the-counter (i.e. non-prescription) and 7.4% as per the doctor's prescription in 2010. In the fully adjusted model, daily use of over-the-counter [HR 1.44 (95% CI 1.13-1.83)] and doctor prescribed (HR 2.18 (95% CI 1.67-2.86)) pain medication were prospectively related with LTSA.
It was concluded that the daily use of pain medication due to musculoskeletal pain is prospectively associated with LTSA even when altered for pain intensity. It was also proposed that use of pain medication can be an important factor to be aware of in the prevention of sickness absence. Thus, regular use of pain medication and not simply the intensity of pain - can be an early measure that musculoskeletal pain can cause serious consequences like long-term sickness absence. Importantly, the use of medication due to musculoskeletal pain is prospectively related with long-term sickness absence even when adjusted for pain intensity. Use of pain medication can be a red flag to be enlightened of in the prevention of sickness absence.