Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 322–330 | Cite as

Returning Back Pain Patients to Work: How Private Musculoskeletal Practitioners Outside the National Health Service Perceive Their Role (an Interview Study)

  • Tamar PincusEmail author
  • Alison Woodcock
  • Steven Vogel


Background Private musculoskeletal practitioners treat a large section of people with back pain, and could play an important role in returning and maintaining patients to work. Method We conducted a qualitative study to explore the self-perceived role of such practitioners in the UK. We interviewed 44 practitioners, including chiropractors, osteopaths and physiotherapists. Results Thematic analysis of the interview transcripts indicated that return to work is a high priority for patients, many of whom are self-employed. Although in general work was perceived as beneficial to health, practitioners perceived work as a threat for some of their back pain patients. They perceived their role as giving ergonomic, postural and exercise based advice, but were more reluctant to address psychosocial problems related to back pain. A common view was that patients’ reluctance to take a break from work impacted badly on their condition, and many practitioners advocated a short time off work duties to focus on rehabilitation. Contact with employers was very limited, and determined by the patients’ request. Conclusion In summary, the study identifies several areas in which further education could expand the role of musculoskeletal practitioners and benefit their back pain patients. However, further study is required to determine whether these results are generalisable beyond the limits of this qualitative study UK based study.


Back pain Return to work Perceived role of practitioners 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyRoyal Holloway, University of LondonEgham, SurreyUK
  2. 2.British School of OsteopathyLondonUK

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