The purpose of this study was to investigate if work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) are associated with increased health care use, over and above workers' compensation health care benefits, in the period prior to and following a workers' compensation claim indicating gradual progression and declining function associated with musculoskeletal morbidity.
This study employed secondary analysis of employment data, workers' compensation claim data and provincial (universal) medical services data for a cohort of health care workers; and investigated rates of medical care contacts among injured workers with a WMSD claim (n=549) compared to a matched group of non-claim workers. Predictors of health care contacts were estimated using general linear regression.
WMSD injured workers had significantly higher rates of health care contacts associated with a claim compared to non-injured workers, over and above workers compensation health care benefits. In the final multi-variable model, a WMSD claim among injured workers was associated with an estimated 69% (95% CI, 1.50, 1.91) increase in health care use for the 12-month period immediately after the injury date compared to non injured workers.
The pattern of visits for WMSDs suggests that workers visit general practitioners as part of an ongoing pattern of symptoms, resulting in frequent utilization of health services prior to work disability that is also reflected in health care contacts after return-to-work.