Oswestry Disability Index

The Oswestry Disability Index was made to assess how a person with lower back pain is able to function in terms of activities of daily living. Use this for your practice when you work on rehabilitating your patient!

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What is the Oswestry Disability Index?

The (also known as the Oswestry Low Back Pain Disability Questionnaire) is a ten-section questionnaire that was created in order to help specific doctors to gauge how a person who has lower back pain is able to perform when it comes to certain activities of daily living, especially while going through rehabilitation.

The sections themselves are the activities of daily living, such as personal care, walking, sitting, standing, and even weight lifting! Each section has a set of six items that are statements of how lower back pain is affecting the patient. Do they not feel any pain at all when doing a particular activity? Are they still able to do that particular activity but feel a bit of pain doing so? Or does the pain prevent them from doing that activity at all? These are the general questions that will be answered by engaging with the ten sections of this index.

Printable Oswestry Disability Index

Download this Oswestry Disability Index and evaluate the functionality of patients with lower back pain.

How to use the Oswestry Disability Index

Have your patient answer the questionnaire!

The Oswestry Disability Index is simple and straightforward so you, the healthcare practitioner, don’t have to worry about anything complicated. All you need to do is explain what this index is all about then have your patient answer it!

The patient needs to look at the sections and tick the appropriate statement that applies to them. Do note that they can only pick one statement per section.

Calculate the scores!

The scoring for this isn’t at all complicated. Even if you aren’t fond of numbers, that’s okay! That’s why we’re here.

Basically, each section has six items. They are arranged by severity. The first item signifies that there is no pain when they do the activity. The last item always signifies that they are unable to perform or engage in the activity because the pain completely prevents them from doing so.

Each section can score between 0 to 5 points. The first statement is always 0. The last statement is always 5.

To calculate the scores, just follow this equation: the total score ÷ the total possible score (always 50) x 100.

Here’s an example:

  • The total score is 16.
  • The total possible score is always 50.
  • Then the equation is 16 ÷ 50 x 100 = 32.
  • The final answer is always a percentage, so it’s 32% in this case

Easy, right?

Now, after calculating the scores, refer to this scoring range chart and their designations to help you interpret the scores:

Score Range Designations

Come up with a care plan for your patient.

Once you have calculated the total and determined which percentage range it falls under, you can proceed to formulate a care plan for your patient. Make sure to consider the specific answers they ticked for each section to help you determine the most important things that your care plan should address.

Oswestry Disability Index Example

Now that you know how the Oswestry Disability Index works, it’s time for you to see what it looks like. Here’s a filled-out Oswestry Disability Index sample.

If you feel like you want to use this for your practice, then you are in luck! We have a free and printable Oswestry Disability Index PDF that you may download. You may choose to print it or you can issue it to your client digitally because it’s editable!

Download this Oswestry Disability Index Example (Sample) here:

Oswestry Disability Index Example

When does one usually use the Oswestry Disability Index?

If a person schedules an appointment with you about their lower back pain, it’s best to immediately issue this to them once you have met up, whether face-to-face or through a telehealth system. Lower back pain should be taken seriously and addressed as soon as possible given that this could hinder a person from doing activities of daily living.

This can also be used during a patient’s lower back rehabilitation program in order to assess them from time to time to get a sense of how they are progressing.

Who can use the Oswestry Disability Index?

The following healthcare practitioners can use the Oswestry Disability Index for their respective practices:

  • Orthopaedic doctors
  • Orthopaedic assistants
  • Physical therapists
  • Physiatrists

Even chiropractors can use this! So long as lower back pain is their specialty and they are certified experts on the matter, they can definitely use this.

What are the benefits of using the Oswestry Disability Index?

It provides a subject measure to a person’s lower back pain.

How do you quantify pain, really? There’s no way to objectively do that, but you can create a semblance of objectivity through scores. That’s what the Oswestry Disability Index does. By having score ranges and designations per range, the index gives the healthcare practitioner something to work with when it comes to gauging the patient and developing care plans for them. Even if it’s technically subjective, you will be considering how the patient looks at their pain and use that to inform your decisions regarding their treatment and rehabilitation.

It’s a good way to track the progress of your patient and your care plan.

Once your patient has started to undergo treatment based on your plan and/or they are (also) going through rehabilitation, you may reuse this index to help you monitor the progress of your patient.

Are they getting better? Are they getting worse? Is my treatment plan working? Do I need to make adjustments to my treatment plan and their rehabilitation program?

These are the questions that you will get the answers to when you reuse this index from time to time.

This is a good way to communicate to patients what they should avoid doing.

Given that the patient will be the one ticking the answers on the index, they will be able to properly reflect on their current capabilities based on how limited they feel because of their lower back pain. It’ll give them an idea of what they should not do in the meantime. The treatment plan and rehabilitation program that they will have to go through should also give them the clarity to realize that they might get better if they follow the program.

Commonly asked questions

What if a patient refuses or forgets to answer a section or two? How would you go about scoring that?

If they simply forgot to, just point it out and have them tick the answers. But if they refuse to answer one, you simply have to adjust the computation. The equation should look like this if they decide to not answer one question: the total score ÷ the total possible score (now 45 because they didn’t answer one section) x 100

It should look like this:

16 ÷ 45 x 100 = 35.5%

Why would one even skip a section while answering the index?

One of the sections is highly personal, which is the part about sexual activity. There have been quite a number of accomplished indexes where this particular section was skipped. You can’t really blame the patient if they don’t want to answer that. Of course, it’s highly recommended that they answer it. You should always keep their answers private to you and the patient.

I saw that there is a modified version of the Oswestry Disability Index. What’s the difference?

It’s pretty much the same thing except that it doesn’t include the part about sexual activity. It was replaced with a section about work/homemaking. So, if your patient doesn’t want to answer the section about sexual activity, maybe you would like to use the modified version instead so you still get the full results.

Why use Carepatron for physical therapy software and clinical documentation?

Carepatron houses a wide variety of worksheets, assessments, surveys, and treatment plans. We also have numerous guides to show you how to use them, like this one about the Oswestry Disability Index!

If you need to add more to your roster of assessments, then by all means, explore our platform! You’re bound to find something that you might find beneficial for your work.

Another perk of using our platform is that you can store your documents in a HIPAA-compliant manner and dictate who can access them!

Let’s say you are using the Oswestry Disability Index for your work, and you have issued it numerous times. You can store those on our platform. You are essentially making a digital backup for fully-accomplished indexes and other documents.

Storing your documents will also make them easily accessible anytime, anywhere. You’ll be able to access all of the documents you have stored on our platform from a desktop, laptop, phone, or whatever mobile device you have! Let’s say you need to make a house call and use the Oswestry Disability Index, you can just whip it out from whatever device you have with you and have your patient answer it via the tickable checkboxes!

Convenience. Accessibility. Security. You get all three with Carepatron.

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What if a patient refuses or forgets to answer a section or two? How would you go about scoring that?
What if a patient refuses or forgets to answer a section or two? How would you go about scoring that?
Written by
Matt Olivares
Matt Olivares

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