Objective: To investigate the outcome of a brief vocational-oriented intervention aiming to motivate disability pensioners with back pain to return to work, and to evaluate prognostic factors for having entered a return to work process during the following year.
Design: A randomized controlled trial was conducted.
Subjects: Participants (n = 89) (mean age 49 years, 65% women) who had received disability pension for more than one year were randomized into an intervention group (education, reassurance, motivation, vocational counselling, n = 45) and a control group (n = 44).
Methods: Primary outcome measures were return to work or having entered a return to work process. Secondary outcome measures were life satisfaction, disability, fear avoidance behaviour and expectancy.
Results: The intervention had no statistically significant effect on return to work or having entered a return to work process at 1-year follow-up. Twice as many in the intervention group (n = 10, 22%) had entered a return to work process compared with the controls (n = 5, 11%). The number needed to treat was 9.2 (95% confidence interval (CI) = 3.4, Inf). Only minor differences in secondary outcome measures were demonstrated. Positive expectancy, better physical performance and less pain were related to return to work.
Conclusion: The effort of returning disability pensioners to work by a brief vocational-oriented intervention may be of clinical relevance. The effect needs to be explored further in larger samples of disability pensioners.