Return to work helps maintain treatment gains in the rehabilitation of whiplash injury
This study examined the relation between return to work and the maintenance of treatment gains made over the course of a rehabilitation intervention. The study sample consisted of 110 individuals who had sustained whiplash injuries in rear collision motor vehicle accidents and were work-disabled at the time of enrolment in the study. Participants completed pre- and post-treatment measures of pain severity, disability, cervical range of motion, depression, posttraumatic stress symptoms, and catastrophizing. Pain severity was assessed again at 1-year follow-up. At 1-year follow-up, 73 participants had returned to work and 37 remained work-disabled. Analyses revealed that participants who returned to work were more likely to maintain treatment gains (77.5%) than participants who remained work-disabled (48%), χ2 = 6.3, P < 0.01. The results of a regression analysis revealed that the relation between return to work and the maintenance of treatment gains remained significant (β = 0.30, P < 0.01), even when controlling for potential confounders such as pain severity, restricted range of motion, depression, and pain catastrophizing. The Discussion addresses the processes by which prolonged work-disability might contribute to the failure to maintain treatment gains. Important knowledge gaps still remain concerning the individual, workplace, and system variables that might play a role in whether or not the gains made in the rehabilitation of whiplash injury are maintained. Clinical implications of the findings are also addressed.