Interdisciplinary treatment suppresses chronic pain-related absences from work

25 Oct 2021
Interdisciplinary treatment suppresses chronic pain-related absences from work

Interdisciplinary treatment (IDT) for chronic pain lowers the rate of related sickness absences from work, a recent study has found. A history of such absences is the strongest predictor for the future need to skip work due to chronic pain-related symptoms.

Researchers conducted a registry-based observational study including 44,241 patients with chronic pain (median age 44.0 years, 71.4 percent women) eligible for IDT. The observation period spanned 7 years, including the 5 years leading up to IDT assessment and the 2-year postintervention follow-up. Sickness absences were determined through the national insurance agency.

At the beginning of the observation period, participants took sickness absences at a rate of 17.4 percent, which climbed steadily to 49.3 percent at the time of the IDT assessment before dropping to 38 percent at the end of the follow-up. Meanwhile, benefits claims for other diagnoses remained constant across the same time span.

Predictors of sick absences were identified through gradient tree boosting modeling. The final model consisted of eight factors, four of which were related to sickness absences, namely gross sick leaves in the past year, ongoing full and partial leaves at the time of IDT assessment, and gross sick leaves within 2 years before IDT.

Other important predictors included patient age, confidence in recovery, geographic location, and state policy implemented to decrease pain-related absences by improving access to evidence-based care.

“These results could guide personalized intervention in the specialist healthcare,” the researchers said.

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