The aim of this research was to determine prognostic indicators of work disability in occupational back pain as reported in the literature, by systematically searching the research literature, assessing the methodological quality of the research, and synthesizing the findings into a concise summary. An article was considered eligible for review if research participants had an injury of the back, the article was based on original research, published in English, and involved a cohort with back pain less than 6 months post injury with at least one follow up assessment. Each article was independently reviewed by two "blinded" reviewers using 19 appraisal criteria for methodological quality of prognostic studies. Nineteen studies met the methodological standard to be included. Time since onset, demographic factors, functional disability, psychological distress, pain reports, previous episodes, and work environment were identified as important prognostic factors. Most studies compartmentalized the factors they considered. What is needed is a comprehensive multivariate biopsychosocial job-related model of work disability.