Background: Musculoskeletal pain is a major cause of work disability. Many patients with musculoskeletal pain seek care from health care providers other than their general practitioners, including a range of musculoskeletal practitioners. Therefore, these musculoskeletal practitioners may play a key role by engaging in sickness absence management and work disability prevention. This study aimed to determine the prevalence of musculoskeletal practitioners' practice behaviours, and their perceptions and beliefs about sickness absence management by using Scandinavian chiropractors as an example, as well as to examine the association between these characteristics and two different practice behaviours.
Methods: As part of a mixed-methods study, we surveyed members of the national chiropractic associations in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden in 2016. Descriptive statistics were used to describe prevalence. Multilevel logistic regression with backwards stepping was used to estimate odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals between each of the two practice behaviours and the characteristics.
Results: Out of the 802 respondents (response rate 56%), 372 were Danish, 349 Norwegian, and 81 Swedish. In Denmark and Norway, 38.7 and 37.8% always/often considered if sick leave was appropriate for their patient compared to 21.0% in Sweden (p = 0.007); and 86.5% of the Norwegian chiropractors always/often recommended to return-to-work versus 64.5 and 66.7% in Denmark and Sweden respectively (p < 0.001). In the final models, factors associated with the two practice behaviours were age, level of clinical experience, working as a teacher, the tendency to be updated on current legislations and policies using social services, contact with general practitioners, relevance of engagement in SAM, consideration of workplace factors, SAM as part of the clinical tool box, patient out-of-pocket fee, and recommending fast return-to-work.
Conclusions: Whilst not always engaged in sickness absence management with regards to musculoskeletal pain, chiropractors favour a 'return-to-work' rather than a 'stay-at-home' approach. Several practice behaviours and perceptions and beliefs are associated with these outcomes; however, system or organisational barriers are linked to clinician non-engagement.
Keywords: Absenteeism; Chiropractic; Occupational health services; Policy; Return to work; Work disability prevention.