Musculoskeletal disorders impose a significant direct cost burden on health care systems in the US and Canada and account for even greater indirect losses of productivity. The overall prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders is high, but a disproportionate share of costs is associated with a small number of cases with chronic pain. This is especially true for cases of occupational back pain, the single most common and costly musculoskeletal disorder in the workplace. A number of studies identify workplace characteristics associated with prolonged disability among cases of work-related back pain. These characteristics include: failure to receive job accommodations, receipt of disability benefit payments, and employment in high-risk industries or jobs that require heavy lifting. Research on the predictors of high-cost cases is limited, however, because of the lack of high-quality data and the need for a multidisciplinary approach. A new study, the Arizona State University Healthy Back Study, addresses some of these issues and promises new insights into effective strategies to reduce the proportion of high-cost claims.