A new study says that integrated care programme, directed at both the patient and the workplace, can substantially reduce disability due to chronic low back pain in an individual's private and working life.
The study has been published on bmj.com.
Researchers based in The Netherlands and Canada evaluated the effectiveness of an integrated care programme in 134 patients with chronic low back pain. All patients were aged between 18 and 65 years and had been absent from work due to low back pain for almost half a year on average.
Patients were randomly assigned to either usual care or integrated care. Integrated care consisted of adjustments to the workplace and a graded exercise programme to teach patients how to move safely while increasing activity levels. The main aim of the programme was to restore occupational functioning and to achieve lasting return to work for patients in their own job or similar work.
The usual care group received normal pain treatment with usually little or no workplace involvement.
Patients completed questionnaires at the start of the study and after three, six, nine and 12 months. Sickness absence data were collected every month.
Over the 12-month study period, patients who received integrated care returned to sustainable work after an average of 88 days compared with 208 days for patients receiving usual care, an average reduction of 120 days.
After 12 months patients in the integrated care group also improved significantly more on functional status compared to patients in the usual care group. No statistically significant differences in pain improvement were found between the two groups.
The integrated care programme substantially reduced disability due to chronic low back pain in both working and private life, say the authors.