A cognitive-behavioral return-to-work program: effects on pain patients with a history of long-term versus short-term sick leave

C Marhold, S J Linton, L Melin
Pain 2001, 91 (1): 155-63
A cognitive-behavioral return-to-work focused program was evaluated in a randomized controlled design, and the effects were compared between two groups of women with musculoskeletal pain. One group of patients (n=36) had a history of long-term sick leave (>12 months) at the start of the program and the other (n=36) had a history of short-term sick leave (2-6 months). The outpatient treatment program, conducted by a psychologist, included 12 sessions with the primary aim to help the patients return-to-work. The treatment first included teaching of coping strategies such as applied relaxation, stress management, graded activity training and pacing. Thereafter the patients were taught how to manage difficulties at their return-to-work and how to generalize coping strategies to different risk factors at their work places. The control condition received treatment-as-usual. The results showed that the cognitive-behavioral return-to-work program was more effective than the treatment-as-usual control condition in reducing the number of days on sick leave for patients on short-term sick leave, but not for patients on long-term sick leave. The treatment program also helped the patients on short-term sick leave to increase their ability to control and decrease pain and to increase their general activity level compared to the control condition. These results underscore the need for an early return-to-work focused rehabilitation to prevent long-term sick leave and disability.

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