BACKGROUND: Musculosceletal pain is the most common cause of sick absence and disability in Norway. It is a common belief that the chance to return to work (RTW) is smaller after at long sick absence. We wanted to compare the RTW for patients with sick leave with longer and shorter duration than one year, after a multidisciplinary rehabilitation-program at Hernes institute (HI). This gap is based on the supposed meaning of the duration of sick leave as a predictor for RTW in this patient group. We also wanted to compare these two groups in relation to pain and effect of physical exercise. METHODS: The database consisted of 750 patients who had completed rehabilitation in the period 2005-2008. Duration of sick leave, parameters describing the work rehabilitation period and work capacity at the end of the program and at the one-year-follow-up were variables recorded. An inception cohort was the design of choice. We used 2x2 tables and tested hypothesis in Fishers methode and SPSS.
RESULTS: There was significant correlation between sick absencse extending beyond one year and recomodation for disability from HI (p 0,042, RR 1,74, KI (1.00, 3.04)). There was not significant more disability after one year among patients with sick absencse more than one year (p 0,077, KI(0.81, 12.78)). Patients who had returned to work after one year after treatment at HI improved their O2- capasity significant compared to those who did not return to work (p 0,018). The same group had significant more reduction in subjective pain (p 0,010).
CONCLUSION: Sick absence more than one year might be a predictor of the recommodation after multidisciplinary rehabilitation. In our cohort we could not find significant correlation between sick abscense more than one year and disability. Physical condition and subjective pain might be a predictor of the potential for rehabilitation. Further investigation is needed.