Can a rural community-based work-related activity program make a difference for chronic pain-disabled injured workers?

Debra A. Dunstan*, Tanya Covic

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To assess the effectiveness of a clinical guidelines-informed multidisciplinary work-related activity program, and to improve the physical, psychological and occupational functioning of chronic pain-disabled injured workers.

Design: An uncontrolled, repeated-measures, pilot study was conducted.

Setting: The intervention was delivered in a community setting in regional New South Wales.

Participants: Participants (n = 30), mean age of 41 years, had a compensable musculoskeletal injury: 60% were male, 63% bad back injuries; the mean time off work was 13 months.

Intervention: A cognitive-behavioural, interdisciplinary intervention was delivered using a multi-contributor provider model (a clinical psychologist and physiotherapist from separate practices, working in liaison with the participant's occupational rehabilitation provider and treating doctor). Groups of six participants attended for one half day per week for six weeks.

Main outcome measures: The outcome measures included: physical functioning, pain intensity and psychological variables, which were assessed pre- and post-program; and medical certification and work participation, which was recorded pre-program and at six-month follow up.

Results: Significant gains were made in pain intensity, physical and psychological functioning, and medical certification. The mean effect size of the intervention was medium to large (d = 0.70). There was no significant change in employment status at six-month follow up.

Conclusions: The results of this pilot study suggest that independent, rural or community-based practitioners, working collaboratively using an integrated treatmentprogram, can produce positive outcomes for pain-disabled injured workers, and achieve results similar to those reported by metropolitan-based pain clinics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-171
Number of pages6
JournalAustralian Journal of Rural Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • compensable injury
  • multi-contributor provider model
  • multidisciplinary intervention
  • return to work
  • work disability


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