Research Updates

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Hannah Bourne

The factors which impact workers with hand injuries returning to work
Take Home Messages:

Workers with hand injuries or disorders who took longer to return to work had:

  • Experienced greater pain;
  • Sustained their injury whilst at work;
  • Felt more dependence on their job; and
  • Gone through symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

This study highlights the importance of treating pain, paying attention to symptoms of PTSD at an early stage and facilitating a smoother return to work.

Why the research matters:

Factors other than physical recovery affect the ability of the worker to return to work following hand injury or hand disorders.  Indentifying these factors enables them to be addressed within rehabilitation programs so that an earlier return to work may be achieved.

What the research involved:

This study, conducted in the Netherlands, investigated factors which may influence the return to work of patients with hand disorders and hand injuries.

91 patients who had surgery for a hand disorder or injury, and who were working prior to surgery, participated in the study.  These patients completed several questionnaires about their rehabilitation and were to notify the researchers when they returned to work. 

Summary of research findings:

The study found that:

  • More severe pain was associated with a later return to work;
  • In those who were suffering from an acute injury, those who were more likely to have a later return to work were those who:
  • Were injured at work;
  • Had a lack of job independence; and
  • Had symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder

The study concluded that, based on these findings, attention should be paid to

  • The treatment of pain;
  • The recognition of symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder during rehabilitation; and
  • Extra interventions which may be necessary to facilitate return to work in those who were injured in the workplace.
Original research:

Determinants of return to work in patients with hand disorders and hand injuries.
Opsteegh L, Reinders-Messelink HA, Schollier D, Groothoff JW, Postema K, Dijkstra PU, van der Sluis CK.
J Occup Rehabil. 2009 Sep;19(3):245-55. Epub 2009 May 13.

Link to PubMed abstract

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