Research study aiming at helping people on sick leave with musculoskeletal disorders return to work

Researchers from the MUSK health research group at OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University have started a new study with the aim of identifying ways to help people who are on sick leave with musculoskeletal disorders return to work. The study will test two different interventions. All participants will receive usual follow up from NAV and can continue with any ongoing medical treatment while the study interventions are given.

You can find more information about the study on the following link:


Vocational advice from physiotherapist

The physiotherapist will discuss your health and work situation and try to help you find solutions to get back to work.

The physiotherapist does not have any connection to NAV or your employer.


Confidentiality: The physiotherapist is bound by law to follow high standards of confidentiality and can’t share information with your employer or NAV without your consent.


What can the physiotherapist do?

  • Discuss concerns you have regarding health and work.

  • Identify obstacles and possible solutions for returning to work.

  • Support you to make a return to work plan with your employer or support the implementation of an existing plan.

  • Suggest actions to help you return to work e.g. suggest adaptions to your work situation, give advice regarding treatment and how to cope with your health problems.


If you consent the physiotherapist can also:

  • Collaborate with your doctor or other health care professionals.

  • Collaborate with your employer.


What can you do to get back to work sooner?

  • Keep in contact with your workplace and colleagues. You and your employer are responsible for making a return to work plan (oppfølgingsplan). Your employer is responsible for making adaptions to your work (e.g. hours, physical tasks, ergonomics), where possible, if this would help you return to work sooner. Your duty is to collaborate with your employer to explore the options and agree to any temporary or permanent changes.

  • Talk to your doctor or physiotherapist about how they can help you get back to work. You know your work best. Discuss which parts of your job you can do now and what modifications might help you get back to work. Ask for treatment(s) designed to get you ready for work.

  • Gradually increase your activity level. Start with the activities you find easy, and do a bit more each day. You will have good days and bad days. Try to keep active also on the bad days. Vary between rest and activity. It is common to have set backs - so don’t give up!

Evidence based information about work and health

  • Research shows that in general work is good for mental and physical health. Work is important for self-esteem and quality of life.

  • Being absent from work can have negative effects on health and wellbeing.

  • Musculoskeletal disorders are very common and all of us suffer these kinds of problems at some time in our life.

  • The pain can be very distressing and may make life and work difficult, but there is usually no serious disease or lasting damage. Most episodes end quickly, though some symptoms may continue or come back from time to time.

  • We have good evidence that returning to work as soon as possible helps recovery, and is the best way to avoid long-term sickness absence.


Below are some unhelpful myths which can cause unnecessary fear and uncertainty:

  1. Common health problems are caused by work: Usually they are not. Some types of work can make the symptoms feel worse, but work does not usually cause these common health problems.  

  2. Work will make my condition worse: Most people with musculoskeletal disorders can continue working. In many cases going back to work can help you feel better.

  3. You should not go back to work until you are fully recovered: Usually the opposite is true. Work can be part of treatment. Getting back to work and activity can help you recover. Adjustments to your work can make it possible to return to work sooner.

  4. A sick certificate (sykemelding) means that you must not work: A sick certificate is not an order from your doctor to stay away from work, it only means you are entitled to sick pay. You can return to work as soon as you are ready.