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01.12.2018 | Study protocol | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2018

Rehabilitation access and effectiveness for persons with back pain: the protocol of a cohort study (REHAB-BP, DRKS00011554)

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2018
Matthias Bethge, Kerstin Mattukat, David Fauser, Wilfried Mau
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​s12889-017-4588-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
An erratum to this article is available at https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s12889-017-4709-6.



Back pain is one of the most common chronic diseases in Germany and has a major impact on work ability and social participation. The German Pension Insurance (GPI) is the main provider of medical rehabilitation to improve work ability and prevent disability pensions in Germany. However, over half of the persons granted a disability pension have never used a medical rehabilitation service. Furthermore, evidence on the effects of medical rehabilitation in Germany is inconclusive. Consequently, this study has two aims: first, to determine barriers to using rehabilitation services, and second, to examine the effectiveness of medical rehabilitation in German residents with chronic back pain.


In 2017 a postal questionnaire will be sent to 45,000 persons aged 45 to 59 years whose pension insurance contributions are managed by the GPI North or the GPI Central Germany. In 2019 respondents who report back pain in the first survey (n = 5760 expected) will be sent a second questionnaire. Individuals will be eligible for the first survey if they are employed, have neither used nor applied for a rehabilitation programme during the last 4 years and neither received nor applied for a disability pension. The sample will be drawn randomly from the registers of the GPI North (n = 22,500) and the GPI Central Germany (n = 22,500) and stratified by sex and duration of sickness absence benefits. Barriers to rehabilitation services will be related to socio-demographic and social characteristics, pain and attitudes to pain, health and health behaviour, healthcare utilisation, experiences and cognitions about rehabilitation services and job conditions. Propensity score matched analyses will be used to examine the effectiveness of rehabilitation services. Data on use of medical rehabilitation will be extracted from administrative records. The primary outcome is pain disability. Secondary outcomes are pain intensity and days of disability, pain self-efficacy, fear avoidance beliefs, self-rated health, depression, healthcare utilisation, self-rated work ability and subjective prognosis of employability, sickness absence benefits, and disability pensions.


This study identifies barriers to use of rehabilitation services and determines the effectiveness of medical rehabilitation for patients with chronic back pain.

Trial registration

German Clinical Trials Register (DRKS00011554, January 26, 2017).
Additional file 1: Reports the trial registration data. (DOCX 16 kb)
Additional file 2 Is the letter telling potential participants about the study’s objectives. (DOCX 15 kb)
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