A recent study suggests that the best way to get a worker with a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) back to work is through a support return-to-work (RTW) program.

The study, which looked at 122 carpal tunnel cases, found that workers who were confident in their abilities to perform their tasks had the greatest success when returning to work, and that such confidence was often the direct result of factors like having supportive workplace policies and practices.

The longer an injured employee is away from work, the harder it is to get him or her to return, says Brian E. O’Neill of Circadian Technologies. Because MSDs affect extended-hours employees more frequently and more severely, RTWs in extended-hours operations are a simple but effective measure in reducing long absences and their attendant costs and liabilities.

Currently, almost 80 percent of employers in the U.S. offer some form of RTW option to their injured employees. Recently, states such as California, which was motivated to reduce workers’ compensation claims, have begun offering financial incentives to get injured workers back on the job.