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What Is The Oswestry Disability Index For Low Back Pain?

Starting a new program to relieve your low back pain is both scary and exciting. Chances are that you have reached a point where your pain is significantly impacting your daily life and you just want to get back to being able to move around like you used to do.

Pain is one of the things that impacts quality of life the most.

What Is Pain?

Pain is often described as a multidimensional experience and it is the very center focus of many musculoskeletal disorders.

Pain is one of the things that impacts quality of life the most. It is also important to remember, though, that pain is not the same as functionality (being able to move around) and that even with intense pain, many people may still be fairly mobile.

Others may have pain and not be able to move around at all. With that in mind, because pain is so subjective, it is important for both doctors and patients to try to assess it in a formal way.

The Oswestry Disability Index is considered to  be the ‘gold standard’ of low back functional outcome tools.

What Is The Oswestry Disability Index?

The Oswestry Disability Index, also known as the Oswestry Low Back Pain Disability Questionnaire, was first initiated by John O’Brien in 1976. It is an extremely important tool that researchers and disability evaluators use to measure a patient’s permanent functional disability.

The test is considered to be the ‘gold standard’ of low back functional outcome tools.

Since its initial publication there have been some modifications to the index but numerous studies have shown it to be one of the most scientific and accurate ways to measure pain and its impact on functionality.

The ODI has been praised for how it can define outcomes in specific spinal disorders and, in fact, the Neck Disability Index was built following the same formula.

The Oswestry Disability Index is used to evaluate the impact of the patient’s condition  (specifically for spinal disorders) on their ability to perform everyday activities

Using The Disability Index

The ODI is used to evaluate the impact of the patient’s condition (specifically for spinal disorders) on their ability to perform everyday activities and see the impact on their lifestyle.

The ODI is a self report questionnaire that takes as little as 5 minutes to fill out. It has 10 questions, each with 6 possible answers, and rates them on a scale from 0–5.

Each question is designed to see the impact of low back pain on certain every day activities. Each question’s rating is then added up at the end to give patients or providers an indication of the person’s perceived disability.

The Oswestry low back pain questionnaire

So when, and why, should you this pain scale?

When you start a new lower back pain treatment program, the ODI can be used at baseline (when you first start your program), and then for every 2 weeks after that, in order to measure your progress.

A zero to 20% range means that you can cope with most daily activities. 20% — 40% is rated as moderate disability, where users experience more pain with sitting, lifting, and standing.

Using the ODI can help you see if you are getting better, or if you are getting worse. Researchers agree that a 10% change is clinically meaningful. Once in treatment, users often do not score items as zero any more.

Typically they will give a score between 10%-30%, even if they are making excellent recovery, like finally being back at work. This means that users, and healthcare practitioners, should not try to treat until you score a zero, just until you feel that you have achieved a meaningful change in your condition.

Pain scales can help you objectively track your rehabilitation progress.

How To Use The Oswestry Disability Index

1. Start by measuring your baseline when you first start a new back pain treatment program.

2. Every 2 weeks measure your progress.

3. 0-20% range = you can cope with most of your daily activities.

4. 21% - 40% range = you are experiencing moderate disability.

5. 41% - 60% range = you are experiencing severe disability.

6. 61% - 80% range = you are classified as having crippling disability.

7. 81% - 100% range = you are classified as being bed bound.

8. A 10% change at any point in time is classified as meaningful.

9. Accept that you will probably never score a 0. The goal of most programs is not to be completely pain free but to be able to live life with minimal pain.

10. A successful treatment program will have measurable results with meaningful changes in your condition.

Using scales like the ODI can help you track your recovery process more effectively.

Measurable Results Are Important

No one knows your pain better than you do, which is why it is good to have some kind of measurement that will help you to track any type of program you participate in to improve your condition.

When change happens gradually, it can be difficult to remember where you were or how far you have come with your treatment.

With so many different low back pain products and programs on the market, it is important that you are able to track results with the work that you are putting into your rehabilitation.

The Oswestry Disability Index questionnaire is available online, for free.

Where Can I Find The ODI?

There are several sites that offer different versions of the ODI but if you would like to use the quick calculator then there is a link.

Be sure to make sure that you are getting the best results for your low back pain treatment!

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