The impact of chronic low back pain on leisure participation: implications for occupational therapy

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Aim: Chronic low back pain can reduce engagement and participation in all areas of daily life. Previous research has focused on employment and vocational rehabilitation initiatives, with less attention paid to its impact on leisure. This paper examines the difficulties men with chronic low back pain experienced in the maintenance of their leisure activities. It explores the connection between leisure and social networks and the potential barriers to resuming leisure occupations due to chronic low back pain.

Method: This ethnographic study examined the experiences of 11 men involved in a vocational rehabilitation programme in New South Wales, Australia. Data were gathered using participant observation and semi-structured interviews.

Findings: Chronic low back pain has a critical impact on leisure occupations. It creates two barriers to a client's engagement in former leisure occupations: physical restrictions and financial barriers.

Conclusion: The findings build on knowledge of how leisure impacts on social dimensions of health and wellbeing. Occupational therapists can play an important role in enabling people with chronic low back pain to re-engage in leisure. These interventions may reduce the social isolation experienced by individuals due to the loss of leisure activity.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: November 1, 2012

More about this publication?
  • The British Journal of Occupational Therapy (BJOT) is the official journal of the College of Occupational Therapists. Its purpose is to publish articles relevant to theory, practice, research, education and management in occupational therapy internationally.

    BJOT publishes research articles, critical reviews, practice analyses, opinion pieces, editorials, letters to the editor, book reviews and an annual index. Please refer to the author's guide at

    Submissions can be made at

    The 2013 Impact Factor for The British Journal of Occupational Therapy is 0.897.

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