Spotlight on article published in

International Journal of Disability Management

IBI Spotlights call attention to important health and productivity findings from peer-reviewed work by external researchers. Unless otherwise stated, the authors are not affiliated with IBI, nor was the research executed on IBI’s behalf. IBI members are encouraged to obtain the original articles from the copyright holder.

What is the Issue?

Low back pain is a common affliction that poses challenges for disability managers, employers, and injured workers. Despite many studies, there is little systematic research showing the efficacy of workplace interventions to help employees return to work and to full functioning.

What are the findings/solutions?

Clinical interventions with occupational interventions provide the most effective forms of return to work from low back pain incidents. This includes early return to work, modified work, and ergonomic evaluations.

Journal Citation

Williams, R. M., Westmorland, M. G., Lin, C. Y., Schmuck, G., & Creen, M. (2006). A systematic review of workplace rehabilitation interventions for work-related low back pain. International Journal of Disability Management, 1(01), 21-30.


To review the evidence on workplace intervention for employees with work-related low back pain. Interventions involved secondary prevention and were prospective in design.


A systematic review of 15 peer-reviewed articles that examined the effectiveness of workplace interventions on return to work (RTW) and other outcomes such as pain management and continued disability. Eight studies were of medium to very high quality; seven studies were of fair to poor quality.


The best evidence is that RTW from disability leave is facilitated by interventions with the following characteristics:

  • They start early in a disability leave.
  • They include both clinical interventions (e.g., fitness, alternate days at work with increased tasks) and occupational interventions (e.g., ergonomic evaluations).
  • Early contact with the worker by the workplace.
  • Contact with health care provider occurs in the workplace.


Early interventions that incorporate both clinical and occupational interventions can reduce durations of disability leaves for work-related low back pain.

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