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MSK Pain – Reduces work absence

Reduced work absence

Evidence summary

A Cochrane review concluded that physical conditioning interventions have a small positive effect on reducing sick leave in those with chronic low back pain at 12 months follow up [1]. There was no effect in those with acute low back pain. In those with non-specific low back pain, there is good evidence of a moderate reduction in work disability with exercise interventions versus usual care, with long-term work disability reduced by 34% [2]. However, the authors were unable to determine which of the different exercise interventions were most effective, and there was no significant effect observed in the short or medium term.

Quality of evidence

Moderate quality

Strength of recommendation



Long-term work absence in those with chronic low back pain is not uncommon, and physical activity interventions, ideally with biopsychosocial components, are likely to benefit many.


1         Schaafsma FG, Whelan K, Beek AJ Van Der,et al.Physical conditioning as part of a return to work strategy to reduce sickness absence for workers with back pain ( Review ) Physical conditioning as part of a return to work strategy to reduce sickness absence for workers with back pain. Published Online First: 2013. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001822.pub3.Copyright

2         Oesch P, Kool J, Hagen KB, et al.Effectiveness of exercise on work disability in patients with non-acute non-specific low back pain: Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Rehabil Med2010;42:193–205. doi:10.2340/16501977-0524


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