Returning to work after long term sickness absence due to low back pain – the struggle within: a qualitative study of the patient’s experience

Cormac Ryan, Douglas Lauchlan, Leigh Rooney, Caroline J. Hollins Martin, Heather Gray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Low back pain (LBP) is a major cause of work absence. Assisting individuals back into work is an important part of rehabilitation. OBJECTIVE: To explore the experiences of individuals returning to work after an episode of sickness absence due to LBP. Participants: Five women employed by a UK University who had returned to work. Method: In this qualitative study, participants underwent semi-structured interviews about their experiences. The transcripts were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Results: Two primary themes emerged 1) perceived pressure to return to work and 2) strategies employed to relieve the pressure to return. Pressure to return to work arose from a number of sources including guilt and a personal work ethic, internally, and from colleagues and management, externally. This pressure led to the individual employing a number of strategies to reduce it. These ranged from a simple denial of health concerns and decision to return to work regardless of their condition, to placing the responsibility of the decision not to return to work onto a significant other, such as a family member or health care professional. Conclusions: Individuals returning to work with LBP experience considerable pressure to return and use a range of strategies to mediate that pressure.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-444
Number of pages12
JournalWORK
Volume49
Issue number3
Early online date20 Jun 2013
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Keywords

  • Rehabilitation
  • interpretative phenomenological analysis
  • work absence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Rehabilitation

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