Secondary prevention of work-related disability in nonspecific low back pain: does problem-solving therapy help? A randomized clinical trial

Johanna H C van den Hout, Johan W S Vlaeyen, Peter H T G Heuts, Johan H L Zijlema, Joseph A G Wijnen
Clinical Journal of Pain 2003, 19 (2): 87-96

OBJECTIVES: Given the individual and economic burden of chronic work disability in low back pain patients, there is a need for effective preventive interventions. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether problem-solving therapy had a supplemental value when added to behavioral graded activity, regarding days of sick leave and work status.

DESIGN: Randomized controlled trial.

PATIENTS AND SETTING: Employees who were recently on sick leave as a result of nonspecific low back pain were referred to the rehabilitation center by general practitioner, occupational physician, or rehabilitation physician. Forty-five employees had been randomly assigned to the experimental treatment condition that included behavioral graded activity and problem-solving therapy (GAPS), and 39 employees had been randomly assigned to behavioral graded activity and group education (GAGE).

OUTCOME MEASURES: Days of sick leave and work status. Data were retrieved from occupational health services.

RESULTS: Data analyses showed that employees in the GAPS group had significantly fewer days of sick leave in the second half-year after the intervention. Moreover, work status was more favorable for employees in this condition, in that more employees had a 100% return-to-work and fewer patients ended up receiving disability pensions one year after the intervention. Sensitivity analyses confirmed these results.

CONCLUSIONS: The addition of problem-solving therapy to behavioral graded activity had supplemental value in employees with nonspecific low back pain.

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