The Project

What is it about?

In cases of limited work ability or when work ability is at risk, people can apply for medical rehabilitation services. The German Pension Insurance provides these services with the aim of improving or restoring the ability to work. Back pain is a main reason for medical rehabilitation. However, many affected people don’t request rehabilitation services: Every second person who receives a disability pension did not participate in rehabilitation services before the pension was granted. Moreover, randomised controlled trials that compared persons with and without rehabilitation participation have generated contradictory findings regarding the efficacy of medical rehabilitation. The aim of our cohort study is two-fold: first, to address barriers to the access to medical rehabilitation services in Germany, and second, to examine the effectiveness of German medical rehabilitation services under real-life conditions.

What are we going to do?

The study identifies persons with back pain and then compares back pain patients who completed a medical rehabilitation with back pain patients without utilising a medical rehabilitation program. The primary outcome is pain disability in important life domains (work, daily living and leisure time). To analyse the effectiveness of medical rehabilitation services, participants and non-participants are matched by the probability of treatment, i.e. to participate in a medical rehabilitation program (propensity score matching). The samples are drawn from the registers of two pension insurance agencies (German Pension Insurance North: n = 22,500; German Pension Insurance Central Germany: n = 22,500). We include employed people aged 45 to 59 years. Data are assessed by written surveys in 2017 and 2019. Additionally, administrative date are extracted.

How long does the study last?

The study starts in January 2017 and ends in December 2019.

Who supports the study?

The study is funded by the German Research Foundation (BE 5885/2-1; MA6981/2-1). The German Research Foundation  is the self-governing organisation for science and research in Germany. Their tasks are the funding of research projects and the facilitation of the collaboration among researchers.

Who bear the responsibility of the project?

The project is conducted by Prof. Matthias Bethge (University of Lübeck, Institute for Social Medicine and Epidemiology, Section Rehabilitation and Work) and Prof. Wilfried Mau (Martin‑Luther‑University Halle‑Wittenberg, Institute for Rehabilitation Medicine).

Who are we working with?

Our cooperation partners are the German Pension Insurance North and the German Pension Insurance Central Germany. The pension insurance agencies draw the study samples and mail the questionnaires. They also provide administrative data regarding completed rehabilitation services.

Where can I find further information?

Our website will informed you about results, current publications and the progress of the project. You can find more information about our study on the website of the German Clinical Trial Register. This registers is an official partner register of World Health Organisation. Our study is registered with the identification number DRKS00011554.