, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 280-289
Date: 03 Nov 2012

Obstacles to and Facilitators of Return to Work After Work-Disabling Back Pain: The Workers’ Perspective

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Introduction Back pain entails considerable costs, particularly because many injured workers are absent from work for long periods. Factors that influence return to work among workers with back pain are still, however, not well understood. This qualitative study aimed at documenting affected workers’ perspective on the: 1—difficulties caused by back pain, and 2—most important obstacles to and facilitators of return to work. Methods Two focus groups composed of workers having suffered from work-disabling back pain were held: a group of participants who had returned to work (n = 9) and a group of participants who had not returned or had recently returned to work (n = 10). The verbatim accounts of the discussions were transcribed and a content analysis was carried out that included a ranking of items. Results Difficulties caused by back pain were related to: (1) personal, (2) family, (3) social, (4) occupational, and (5) financial factors, and (6) health services. Obstacles to and facilitators of return to work were of 4 different types: (1) occupational factors, (2) factors associated with the utilization of health services, (3) clinical, and (4) personal factors. Persistent pain, lack of access to information or support groups, and lack of collaboration and understanding from employer were the most important obstacles identified, whereas knowledge of one’s limits and physical training were perceived to be the most important facilitators of return to work, ahead of work-related factors. Differences between groups’ perceptions were attributed mainly to control beliefs. Conclusions Personal, clinical, occupational and health services factors are perceived by workers with back pain to play a crucial role in determining whether they return to work or not.