Importance of Psychosocial Factors for Physical Therapy Outcomes

By Vennela Thumula, Te-Chun Liu, Randall Lea, M.D.

March 28, 2024 Related Topics: Behavioral Health, Physical Medicine

Despite the growing recognition of the importance of psychosocial factors in recovery, there remains a lack of comprehensive understanding of their prevalence, impact, and potential interventions, especially within the workers’ compensation system. This study aims to fill some of these gaps.

Psychosocial risk factors include poor recovery expectations after an injury, fear avoidance, poor coping, catastrophizing, and perceived injustice. Some studies have documented that psychosocial factors are a strong predictor of adverse outcomes in patients. These psychosocial risk factors, which often prolong disability and return to work, especially for musculoskeletal injuries, are also referred to as “yellow flags.”

Importance of Psychosocial Factors for Physical Therapy Outcomes. Vennela Thumula, Te-Chun Liu, and Randall D. Lea. March 2024. WC-24-17.


Copyright: WCRI

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Research Questions:

  • How prevalent are psychosocial risk factors in low back pain patients receiving physical therapy in workers’ compensation?
  • Does the prevalence of these factors vary across different payor types and patient groups?
  • Do patients, with and without psychosocial risk factors, recover differently?
  • To what extent do the psychosocial risk factors explain differences in physical therapy outcomes observed between workers’ compensation and non-workers’ compensation patients?

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