Lutgen Terblance, managing director of RehabWorks, outlined the current evidence comparing the medical and biopsychosocial models of rehabilitation in his paper, The Biopsychosocial Model and Functional Restoration.
The medical model of rehabilitation usually takes the form of ongoing physical treatments and expensive medical investigations to identify or treat a medical problem. But Terblance argued that more often than not, no physical or medical problem can be identified and treatment results in short-term benefits.
During this time, sufferers may experience psychosocial risk factors including low mood, illness beliefs and psychological distress.
These factors are major contributors to ongoing illness and absence from work. Terblance cited the new World Health Organisation model of rehabilitation, which describes sickness as not due to just one fact. He also pointed out that the Association of British Insurers found that 30% of cases of long-term sick leave have no specific cause.
By using the biopsychosocial model, you can take into account all the factors relating to an individual’s sickness absence and aim to restore their ability to work.
Terblance concluded with a case study of 85 employees who after failing to respond to physiotherapy entered a biopsychosocial rehabilitation programme with 90% returning to full-time work.