Work-Focused Health Care: The Role of Physical Therapists

Nathan Hutting, Rose Boucaut, Douglas Gross, Yvonne Heerkens, Venerina Johnston, Glykeria Skamagki, Kjerstin Stigmar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are characterized by pain and reduced physical functioning that often results in decreased quality of life. Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMDs) are health problems in which working conditions (ie, physically demanding or repetitive activities or a poor work environment) significantly contribute to the onset or progression of the disorder, but are not necessarily the sole cause. Even if work-related environmental factors do not directly cause MSDs, the symptoms can be work relevant (ie, the work can influence the symptoms, or the symptoms can affect the ability to work). WRMDs are burdensome to patients, employers and society as they are associated with high rates of disability, absenteeism, presenteeism, loss of productivity, longer recovery timeframes and workers’ compensation costs. In this Point of View, we argue that physical therapists treating patients with MSDs should adopt a work-focused approach. There is ample evidence showing that being employed is associated with better health.1 Physical therapists can improve the health-related quality of life for patients with MSDs through adopting a work-focused approach and promoting participation in work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2231-2236
Number of pages6
JournalPhysical Therapy
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2020


  • Musculoskeletal Disorders
  • Occupational Health
  • Physical Therapy
  • Work-focused Health Care
  • Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders


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