Aim: The aim of this study was to assess the short-term effects of a work-related rehabilitation program on cardiovascular fitness, musculoskeletal symptoms, and cardiac autonomic regulation during sleep, by comparing a group receiving long-stay rehabilitation (3.5 weeks) vs., a group receiving short-stay rehabilitation (4+4 days).
Method: Three tests were performed on the patients enrolled for the work-related rehabilitation program: 1) Åstrand/Ryhming cycle test, 2) pressure pain threshold (PPT), and 3) heart rate variability during sleep. Subjective pain was scored on visual analogue scale (VAS). The pre-test measurements were performed on the first day of the intervention and post-test were performed during the last week of the intervention.
Results: No significant within or between group differences were found for maximal oxygen uptake or HRV during sleep from pre- to post-test. No significant change was found in subjective pain scores, although PPT in trapezius and erector spinae were significantly decreased from pre- to post-test. There was no significant difference in change in pain between the short- and long-stay groups.
Conclusion: The acute effect of the work-related rehabilitation program in cardiovascular fitness, autonomic regulation (indicated by HRV) and pain was small and mainly insignificant and there was no difference between the long-stay and short-stay groups. This study evaluated some of the factors that commonly are targeted in work-related rehabilitation programs, and the results highlight the importance of evaluating these programs. Future studies should investigate the long-term effect for the patients enrolled at the rehabilitation program.
Keywords: Work-related rehabilitation, musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular fitness, pressure pain threshold, sleep quality.