Addressing occupational factors in the management of low back pain: implications for physical therapist practice

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Family Medicina and Community Health

Publication Date


Document Type



Disability Evaluation; Fear; Humans; Job Satisfaction; Life Style; Low Back Pain; Occupational Diseases; *Physical Therapy Modalities; Psychophysiology; Questionnaires; *Recovery of Function; Risk Assessment; Risk Factors; Sick Leave; Social Support; Stress, Psychological; Work


Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Preventive Medicine | Primary Care


There is mounting evidence that occupational factors influence the extent of sickness absence following an episode of low back pain, but there have been limited efforts to integrate the identification and management of occupational factors into the routine practice of physical therapists. Systematic reviews suggest that a client's report of heavy physical demands, inability to modify job tasks, work stress, lack of organizational support, job dissatisfaction, poor expectations for resuming usual work, and fear of reinjury are indications of significant barriers to returning to work. Recommended strategies for evaluating and addressing occupational factors are explored with respect to the physical therapist's role in client assessment, development of activity and lifestyle recommendations, therapeutic exercise, communication with other providers, and summary reports. Primary recommendations include: (1) administration of self-report questionnaires to assess a client's perspective of physical job demands, (2) client-centered interviewing to highlight individual return-to-work concerns, (3) early discussions with clients about possible job modifications, and (4) incorporation of clients' workplace concerns in progress reports and summaries. These strategies may improve low back pain outcomes by encouraging effective communication with key stakeholders and by developing clients' ability to resolve obstacles to returning to work.

DOI of Published Version



Phys Ther. 2011 May;91(5):777-89. Epub 2011 Mar 30. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Physical therapy

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID