Objectives: Given the individual and economic burden of chronic work disability in low back pain patients, there is a need for effective preventive interventions. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether problem-solving therapy had a supplemental value when added to behavioral graded activity, regarding days of sick leave and work status.
Design: Randomized controlled trial.
Patients and setting: Employees who were recently on sick leave as a result of nonspecific low back pain were referred to the rehabilitation center by general practitioner, occupational physician, or rehabilitation physician. Forty-five employees had been randomly assigned to the experimental treatment condition that included behavioral graded activity and problem-solving therapy (GAPS), and 39 employees had been randomly assigned to behavioral graded activity and group education (GAGE).
Outcome measures: Days of sick leave and work status. Data were retrieved from occupational health services.
Results: Data analyses showed that employees in the GAPS group had significantly fewer days of sick leave in the second half-year after the intervention. Moreover, work status was more favorable for employees in this condition, in that more employees had a 100% return-to-work and fewer patients ended up receiving disability pensions one year after the intervention. Sensitivity analyses confirmed these results.
Conclusions: The addition of problem-solving therapy to behavioral graded activity had supplemental value in employees with nonspecific low back pain.