Predicting time on prolonged benefits for injured workers with acute back pain

Ivan A Steenstra, Jason W Busse, David Tolusso, Arold Davilmar, Hyunmi Lee, Andrea D Furlan, Ben Amick, Sheilah Hogg-Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Introduction: Some workers with work-related compensated back pain (BP) experience a troubling course of disability. Factors associated with delayed recovery among workers with work-related compensated BP were explored.

Methods: This is a cohort study of workers with compensated BP in 2005 in Ontario, Canada. Follow up was 2 years. Data was collected from employers, employees and health-care providers by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). Exclusion criteria were: (1) no-lost-time claims, (2) >30 days between injury and claim filing, (3) <4 weeks benefits duration, and (4) age >65 years. Using proportional hazard models, we examined the prognostic value of information collected in the first 4 weeks after injury. Outcome measures were time on benefits during the first episode and time until recurrence after the first episode.

Results: Of 6,657 workers, 1,442 were still on full benefits after 4 weeks. Our final model containing age, physical demands, opioid prescription, union membership, availability of a return-to-work program, employer doubt about work-relatedness of injury, worker's recovery expectations, participation in a rehabilitation program and communication of functional ability was able to identify prolonged claims to a fair degree [area under the curve (AUC) = .79, 95% confidence interval (CI) .74-.84]. A model containing age, sex, physical demands, opioid prescription and communication of functional ability was less successful at predicting time until recurrence (AUC = .61, 95% CI .57, .65).

Conclusions: Factors contained in information currently collected by the WSIB during the first 4 weeks on benefits can predict prolonged claims, but not recurrent claims.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-278
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Occupational Rehabilitation
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • prolonged benefits
  • injured workers
  • back pain


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