Proving that personal factors play a major role, researchers have found that people who call in sick for back and neck problems return to work at different rates despite having similar problems .
Researchers from University of Gothenburg, Sweden followed 385 patients in a rehabilitation programme for 10 years and asked them to self-rate their pain, functional ability and quality of life. Fitness levels were tested and the length of sick leave registered. The patients were also asked about their feelings and thoughts of their future working life.
The results showed that if patients had motivation to get back to work, they returned to their work more quickly than those who were uncertain and had doubts about their work situation.
"Patients who lack motivation or who have a poor quality of life should perhaps have some form of counselling instead of physiotherapy," says Marie Lydell, registered physiotherapist and researcher at the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine.
"At the same time, other resources should be allocated to those with good potential to get back to work. In such cases, it might be enough for a physiotherapist to act as a coach rather than give traditional treatment."
Lydell insists that offering the best possible rehabilitation to every patient not just reduces the patient's suffering but also has major economic benefits.