Models of return to work for musculoskeletal disorders

J Occup Rehabil. 2007 Jun;17(2):327-52. doi: 10.1007/s10926-007-9071-6. Epub 2007 Feb 8.


Background: Musculoskeletal pain disorders are the most prevalent, costly, disabling, and commonly researched conditions in the workplace, yet the development of overarching conceptual models of return to work (RTW) in these conditions has been lagging.

Method: A critical review of the literature was performed using multiple medical and health search engines in order to provide an evaluation of the evolution and the state of the art of health and disability models with a focus on specific models of RTW.

Results: The main tenets, implications for diagnosis, treatment, and disability compensation, are the key perspectives analyzed for the following specific models of RTW: biomedical, psychosocial, forensic, ecological/case management, biopsychosocial, and two more recent models developed by the Institute of Medicine and the World Health Organization, respectively.

Conclusions: Future development of models that are truly transdisciplinary, and address temporal and multidimensional aspects of occupational disability, remains a goal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Employment
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / rehabilitation*
  • Pain / rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation, Vocational
  • Sick Leave*