Date of Conferral



Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)


Health Services


Robert McWhirt


Employees who develop and report nontraumatic acute low back pain that occurs while performing work duties, or shortly thereafter, are classified as having occupational isolated acute low back pain (OIALBP). The purpose of this project was to identify and implement an evidence- based time frame to refer occupational isolated acute low back pain patients (OIALBPPs) to physical therapy (PT) that returns them to full duty work (FDW) more quickly. The diffusion of innovation theory aided the project leader and health care providers to develop strategies to overcome barriers in implementing the project's results into the practice. A total of 932 medical records of OIALBPPs who presented to the organization from 2009 through 2015 were retrieved and abstracted by the organization's occupational health providers. The project leader analyzed the data and identified the best time frame to refer their OIALBPPs to PT. A t test, Chi-square, and an Analysis of Variance were used in the data analysis. The results were employed to design and construct tables in Excel. Early PT is defined as a PT initial evaluation that occurs < 10 days after back pain onset. A significant (p < 0.001) difference of 13.5 days between early and delayed PT groups was identified. Significant differences persisted when evaluated by sex, age bracket, occupational group, and incidence of failure to return to FDW. In conclusion, OIALBPPs who receive early PT return to FDW nearly 2 weeks sooner than do those who delay PT. Early PT may reduce health care cost, reduce lost employee income, increase productivity, increase company revenue, and lower insurance costs. Referring OIALBPPs to PT early may lower the economic burden placed on health care budgets and society as a whole.