Self-reported severity measures as predictors of return-to-work outcomes in occupational back pain

Marjorie Baldwin, Richard J. Butler, William Johnson, Pierre Côté

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Introduction: We test an array of biopsychosocial, cognitive-behavioral, and work-related factors to identify the best predictors of work disability following a back injury. Methods: We test the validity of alternative severity measures in predicting the likelihood of four distinct, mutually exclusive patterns of post-injury employment in the first year after onset of back pain. The study sample includes 959 participants in the ASU Healthy Back Study, a prospective cohort study of workers who filed claims for occupational back pain between 1999 and 2002. Self-reported severity measures include: NRS-101 measures of the intensity of back or leg pain, Roland-Morris scale of functional disability, and mental and physical components of the SF-12. Results: All the severity measures have significant predictive power on return-to-work outcomes even after 1 year. Baseline physical functioning and overall mental and physical health status are more predictive of specific patterns of post-injury employment than pain intensity measures, possibly because there is considerable idiosyncratic variation in the pain intensity measures. The mental component of the SF-12, in particular, is relatively robust to alternate specifications, consistently statistically significant, and has the lowest probability significance level in explaining patterns of employment 1 year after injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)683-700
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Occupational Rehabilitation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2007


  • Back functionality
  • Low back pain
  • Mental well being
  • Return to work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Occupational Therapy


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