Health status, work limitations, and return-to-work trajectories in injured workers with musculoskeletal disorders

Qual Life Res. 2007 Sep;16(7):1167-78. doi: 10.1007/s11136-007-9229-x. Epub 2007 Jul 7.


Background: The purpose of this study was to describe the health status and work limitations in injured workers with musculoskeletal disorders at 1 month post-injury, stratified by return-to-work status, and to document their return-to-work trajectories 6 months post-injury.

Methods: A sample of 632 workers with a back or upper extremity musculoskeletal disorder, who filed a Workplace Safety and Insurance Board lost-time claim injury, participated in this prospective study. Participants were assessed at baseline (1 month post-injury) and at 6 months follow-up.

Results: One month post-injury, poor physical health, high levels of depressive symptoms and high work limitations are prevalent in workers, including in those with a sustained first return to work. Workers with a sustained first return to work report a better health status and fewer work limitations than those who experienced a recurrence of work absence or who never returned to work. Six months post-injury, the rate of recurrence of work absence in the trajectories of injured workers who have made at least one return to work attempt is high (38%), including the rate for workers with an initial sustained first return to work (27%).

Conclusions: There are return-to-work status specific health outcomes in injured workers. A sustained first return to work is not equivalent to a complete recovery from musculoskeletal disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Insurance Claim Reporting*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / rehabilitation*
  • Occupational Diseases*
  • Occupational Health*
  • Occupational Therapy*
  • Ontario
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychological Tests
  • Psychometrics
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Work*
  • Workers' Compensation*