OBJECTIVE--To evaluate the effects of an early, active, and multidisciplinary rehabilitation programme for neck and shoulder disorders. METHODS--Primary health care and industrial health care of a nonrandomised, controlled, cohort was followed up over two years in a geographically defined area. The cohort consisted of working people who consulted a physician about disorders of the neck or shoulders from 1 August 1988 to 31 October 1989. Criteria for acceptance; not chronic symptoms, patients had sick leave of no more than four weeks. Disorders were not caused by trauma, infections, malignancy, rheumatic diseases, abuse, or pregnancy. 107 people qualified for the study, 87% were followed up for two years. They were divided into two groups. One group obtained active, multidisciplinary rehabilitation for eight weeks that comprised physical training, information, education, social interaction, and work place visits. Controls were given traditional treatment; physiotherapy, medication, rest, and sick leave. The main outcome measures were: average number of days of sick leave for the two years after rehabilitation, subjective pain on a visual analogue scale, and ratings on seven subscales of the sickness impact profile. RESULTS--At 12 and 24 months of follow up effects of the active rehabilitation programme did not differ from traditional treatment in any of the outcome measures. New work task (P < 0.05) or changed work place (P < 0.001) during the follow up period were associated with decreased sick leave, independent of treatment. CONCLUSIONS--Active, multidisciplinary rehabilitation of neck and shoulder disorders was not more effective than traditional treatment. Changed work conditions were associated with decreased sick leave, independent of type of treatment provided.
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