Insurer Report

Visit Workers' Compensation Regulator Website

Issue 18

Summer 2012

Insurer Report, Summer 2012

Return to work assist good-news story

David is a 50 yr old Terminal Operator who sustained serious injuries to his right leg after he was hit by a truck while riding his motorbike to work.

Read More

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself

Courtesy of Return To Work Matters, Dr Mary Wyatt discusses whether disability is more likely if a patient worries about their illness.


The fear avoidance scale was developed in the 1980s to provide a framework for understanding a patient's response to pain and how it affects the outcome of their illness. At one end of the scale is the person who copes easily, has high levels of confidence in their abilities and is generally good at problem solving. They are confident they will work out a way to deal with the particular situation, whether it is a health condition or another problem.


At the other end of the spectrum is the person who catastrophises about their problem. The situation becomes more intense and dramatic, and they are highly fearful of the consequences of their illness.


Researchers in Spain sought to understand whether coping and catastrophising, two opposite ends of the fear avoidance spectrum, influenced disability and depression in patients with whiplash.


Approximately 150 patients who had had whiplash or neck pain for less than three months were assessed. The patients completed a series of questionnaires which provided the researchers with information about their pain coping and pain catastrophising approaches.


The researchers found that catastrophising increased the likelihood of subsequent disability and depression in patients. The researchers found that pain-coping strategies helped to a limited degree, but did not completely negate the effect of catastrophising.


This study's importance highlights the need to ascertain whether catastrophising is occurring, and focus on managing any resulting distress. Catastrophising can be recognised when an individual uses emotive language, reports high levels of anxiety and fear about their condition, and is avoiding a number of activities that might cause some increase in their pain. People who are catastrophising require more time, more explanation, and higher levels of energy and focus from their treating practitioners.


Return To Work Matters is a professional resource site serving Return To Work Professionals.  The people whose responsibility it is to facilitate injured or ill employees to recover their health and get back to their jobs. For more from Return To Work Matters, visit their website at

Share |

Comment on this article


(required - will not appear)