Influence of modified work on recurrence of sick leave due to musculoskeletal complaints
Miranda van Duijn, Alex Burdorf
Objectives: Workers who carry out modified work during sick leave due to musculoskeletal complaints seem to return to full-capacity work earlier than colleagues not given modified work. This study evaluates whether modified work during sick leave also influences the recurrence of a new episode of sick leave.
Methods: Questionnaires on physical and psychosocial workload, musculoskeletal complaints, general health and sick leave were sent to 137 workers on sick leave for 2–6 weeks due to musculoskeletal complaints, shortly after full return to work, and 12 months after the first day of sick leave.
Results: Approximately 45% of the participants experienced a recurrence of musculoskeletal sick leave within 12 months after the start of the initial sick leave. Subjects who performed modified work during initial sick leave reported significantly less recurrence than those who had started immediately at full capacity. Musculoskeletal sick leave prior to the start of the study also predicted the recurrence of sick leave. Many workers reported residual health problems at the time of return to work, which in turn influenced recurrence of musculoskeletal sickness absence.
Conclusion: This study suggests that, although full recovery of musculoskeletal complaints was not established at the time of return to work, workers who had performed modified work had a lower risk of recurrence of musculoskeletal sick leave than those who had returned directly to full duties.
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