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1.  Prognosis in patients with recent onset low back pain in Australian primary care: inception cohort study 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2008;337(7662):154-157.
Objective To estimate the one year prognosis and identify prognostic factors in cases of recent onset low back pain managed in primary care.
Design Cohort study with one year follow-up.
Setting Primary care clinics in Sydney, Australia.
Participants An inception cohort of 973 consecutive primary care patients (mean age 43.3, 54.8% men) with non-specific low back pain of less than two weeks’ duration recruited from the clinics of 170 general practitioners, physiotherapists, and chiropractors.
Main outcome measures Participants completed a baseline questionnaire and were contacted six weeks, three months, and 12 months after the initial consultation. Recovery was assessed in terms of return to work, return to function, and resolution of pain. The association between potential prognostic factors and time to recovery was modelled with Cox regression.
Results The follow-up rate over the 12 months was more than 97%. Half of those who reduced their work status at baseline had returned to previous work status within 14 days (95% confidence interval 11 to 17 days) and 83% had returned to previous work status by three months. Disability (median recovery time 31 days, 25 to 37 days) and pain (median 58 days, 52 to 63 days) took much longer to resolve. Only 72% of participants had completely recovered 12 months after the baseline consultation. Older age, compensation cases, higher pain intensity, longer duration of low back pain before consultation, more days of reduced activity because of lower back pain before consultation, feelings of depression, and a perceived risk of persistence were each associated with a longer time to recovery.
Conclusions In this cohort of patients with acute low back pain in primary care, prognosis was not as favourable as claimed in clinical practice guidelines. Recovery was slow for most patients. Nearly a third of patients did not recover from the presenting episode within a year.
PMCID: PMC2483884  PMID: 18614473
2.  Prognosis for patients with chronic low back pain: inception cohort study 
Objectives To describe the course of chronic low back pain in an inception cohort and to identify prognostic markers at the onset of chronicity.
Design Inception cohort study with one year follow-up.
Setting Primary care clinics in Sydney, Australia.
Participants The study sample was a subcohort of an inception cohort of 973 consecutive patients presenting to primary care with acute low back pain (<2 weeks’ duration). 406 participants whose pain persisted for three months formed the inception cohort of patients with chronic low back pain.
Main outcome measures Outcomes and putative predictors measured at initial presentation, onset of chronicity (study entry), and follow-up at nine and 12 months. Recovery was determined from measures of pain intensity, disability, and work status. The association between potential prognostic factors and time to recovery was modelled with Cox regression.
Results Completeness of follow-up was 97% of total person time for all outcomes. The cumulative probability of being pain-free was 35% at nine months and 42% at 12 months and for complete recovery was 35% at nine months and 41% at 12 months. Of the 259 participants who had not recovered from pain related disability at entry to the chronic study, 47% had recovered by 12 months. Previous sick leave due to low back pain, high disability levels or high pain intensity at onset of chronicity, low levels of education, greater perceived risk of persistent pain, and being born outside Australia were associated with delayed recovery.
Conclusion More than one third of patients with recent onset, non-radicular chronic low back pain recover within 12 months. The prognosis is less favourable for those who have taken previous sick leave for low back pain, have high disability levels or high pain intensity at onset of chronic low back pain, have lower education, perceive themselves as having a high risk of persistent pain, and were born outside Australia.
PMCID: PMC2758336  PMID: 19808766
3.  Prognosis of acute low back pain: design of a prospective inception cohort study 
Clinical guidelines generally portray acute low back pain as a benign and self-limiting condition. However, evidence about the clinical course of acute low back pain is contradictory and the risk of subsequently developing chronic low back pain remains uncertain. There are few high quality prognosis studies and none that have measured pain, disability and return to work over a 12 month period. This study aims to provide the first estimates of the one year prognosis of acute low back pain (pain of less than 2 weeks duration) in patients consulting primary care practitioners. A secondary aim is to identify factors that are associated with the prognosis of low back pain.
The study is a prospective inception cohort study. Consecutive patients consulting general medical practitioners, physiotherapists and chiropractors in the Sydney metropolitan region will complete a baseline questionnaire regarding their back pain. Subsequently these patients will be followed up by telephone 6 weeks, 3 months and 12 months after the initial consultation. Patients will be considered to have recovered from the episode of back pain if they have no pain and no limitation of activity, and have returned to pre-injury work status. Life tables will be generated to determine the one year prognosis of acute low back pain. Prognostic factors will be assessed using Cox regression.
This study will provide the first estimates of the one year prognosis of acute low back pain in a representative sample of primary care patients.
PMCID: PMC1543628  PMID: 16790069
4.  Prognosis of chronic low back pain: design of an inception cohort study 
Although clinical guidelines generally portray chronic low back pain as a condition with a poor prognosis this portrayal is based on studies of potentially unrepresentative survival cohorts. The aim of this study is to describe the prognosis of an inception cohort of people with chronic low back pain presenting for primary care.
The study will be an inception cohort study with one year follow-up. Participants are drawn from a cohort of consecutive patients presenting with acute low back pain (less than 2 weeks duration) to primary care clinics in Sydney, Australia. Those patients who continue to experience pain at three months, and are therefore classified as having chronic back pain, are invited to participate in the current study. The cohort will be followed up by telephone at baseline, 9 months and 12 months after being diagnosed with chronic low back pain. Recovery from low back pain will be measured by sampling three different outcomes: pain intensity, interference with function due to pain, and work status. Life tables will be generated to determine the one year prognosis of chronic low back pain. Prognostic factors will be assessed using Cox regression.
This study will determine the prognosis of chronic non-specific low back pain in a representative cohort of patients sourced from primary care. The results of this study will improve understanding of chronic low back pain, allowing clinicians to provide more accurate prognostic information to their patients.
PMCID: PMC1800846  PMID: 17288586
5.  Clinical course and prognostic factors in acute low back pain: an inception cohort study in primary care practice. 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1994;308(6928):577-580.
OBJECTIVE--To describe the natural course of recent acute low back pain in terms of both morbidity (pain, disability) and absenteeism from work and to evaluate the prognostic factors for these outcomes. DESIGN--Inception cohort study. SETTING--Primary care. PATIENTS--103 patients with acute localised non-specific back pain lasting less than 72 hours. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Complete recovery (disappearance of both pain and disability) and return to work. RESULTS--90% of patients recovered within two weeks and only two developed chronic low back pain. Only 49 of 100 patients for whom data were available had bed rest and 40% of 75 employed patients lost no time from work. Proportional hazards regression analysis showed that previous chronic episodes of low back pain, initial disability level, initial pain worse when standing, initial pain worse when lying, and compensation status were significantly associated with delayed episode recovery. These factors were also related to absenteeism from work. Absenteeism from work was also influenced by job satisfaction and gender. CONCLUSIONS--The recovery rate from acute low back pain was much higher than reported in other studies. Those studies, however, did not investigate groups of patients enrolled shortly after the onset of symptoms and often mixed acute low back pain patients with patients with exacerbations of chronic pain or sciatica. Several sociodemographic and clinical factors were of prognostic value in acute low back pain. Factors which influenced the outcome in terms of episode recovery (mainly physical severity factors) were only partly predictive of absenteeism from work. Time off work and return to work depended more on sociodemographic and job related influences.
PMCID: PMC2539597  PMID: 8148683
6.  Acute Low Back Pain and Primary Care: How to Define Recovery and Chronification? 
Spine  2011;36(26):2316-2323.
Study Design
Prospective cohort study
to establish outcome measures for recovery and chronic pain for studies with patients that present with recent-onset acute low back pain in primary care
Summary of Background Data
Among back pain researchers, no consensus exists about outcome definitions or how to identify primary-care patients as not-recovered from an episode of low back pain. Cut points for outcome scales have mostly been arbitrarily chosen. Theoretical models for establishing minimal important change (MIC) values in studies of patients with low back pain have been proposed and need to be applied to real data.
In a sample of 521 patients which presented with acute low back pain (<4 weeks) in primary care clinics and were followed for 6 months, scores for pain and disability were compared with ratings on a global perceived effect scale. Using multiple potential “gold standards” as anchors (reference standards), the receiver operating characteristics method was used to determine optimal cut points for different ways of defining non-recovery from acute low back pain.
MIC values and upper limits for pain and disability scores as well as minimal important percent changes are presented for five different definitions of recovery. A previously suggested 30% change from baseline scores does not accurately discriminate between recovered and not recovered patients in patients presenting with acute low back pain in primary care.
Outcome definitions that combine ratings from perceived recovery scales with pain and disability measures provide the highest accuracy in discriminating recovered from non-recovered patients.
PMCID: PMC3100452  PMID: 21311400
Acute low back pain; primary care; outcome definitions; minimal important change; receiver operating characteristics
7.  Treatment provider preference of Australian office workers for common neurologic and musculoskeletal conditions 
The purpose of this study was to survey the choice of treatment provider by selected Australian office workers for common conditions that are managed in chiropractic practice.
Office workers of a medium-sized legal company in Sydney, Australia, were surveyed. The participants (n = 125) were asked to complete a written questionnaire on their preferred treatment choices for common physical conditions, such as back pain, neck pain, and headache.
A total of 81 people returned completed questionnaires. Forty-two people (52%) reported that they would attend a general medical practitioner first for back pain. In comparison, 24% of people reported that they would attend a physiotherapist first for back pain. Eleven people (13%) reported that they would attend a chiropractor first for back pain. Fifty-one percent (51%) of employees reported that their preferred treatment first choice for neck pain was a general practitioner. Chiropractic was rated as third (30%) most common choice for the treatment of neck pain (equal with physiotherapy). The preferred first choice (63% of employees) for headache treatment was a general practitioner. The second most common choice for treatment of headache was a naturopath (50%). Eighty-one percent of employees ranked a general practitioner as their preferred treatment first choice for migraine, and 39% of employees also ranked the general practitioner as the second most common treatment choice for migraine.
In this sample of Australian workers, chiropractic was rated within the top 3 choices for several common neuromusculoskeletal conditions for which they may have chosen a chiropractor. Because of the small sample size and limited parameters of this study, no strong conclusions can be made until further data are collected.
PMCID: PMC2686399  PMID: 19646368
Therapy; Choice behavior; Chiropractic; Physical therapy; Medicine; Workplace; Health personnel; Neurologic manifestations; Headache; Neck pain; Migraine disorders; Back pain; Low back pain
8.  Randomised controlled trial of exercise for low back pain: clinical outcomes, costs, and preferences 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1999;319(7205):279-283.
To evaluate effectiveness of an exercise programme in a community setting for patients with low back pain to encourage a return to normal activities.
Randomised controlled trial of progressive exercise programme compared with usual primary care management. Patients’ preferences for type of management were elicited independently of randomisation.
187 patients aged 18-60 years with mechanical low back pain of 4 weeks to 6 months’ duration.
Exercise classes led by a physiotherapist that included strengthening exercises for all main muscle groups, stretching exercises, relaxation session, and brief education on back care. A cognitive-behavioural approach was used.
Main outcome measures
Assessments of debilitating effects of back pain before and after intervention and at 6 months and 1 year later. Measures included Roland disability questionnaire, Aberdeen back pain scale, pain diaries, and use of healthcare services.
At 6 weeks after randomisation, the intervention group improved marginally more than the control group on the disability questionnaire and reported less distressing pain. At 6 months and 1 year, the intervention group showed significantly greater improvement in the disability questionnaire score (mean difference in changes 1.35, 95% confidence interval 0.13 to 2.57). At 1 year, the intervention group also showed significantly greater improvement in the Aberdeen back pain scale (4.44, 1.01 to 7.87) and reported only 378 days off work compared with 607 in the control group. The intervention group used fewer healthcare resources. Outcome was not influenced by patients’ preferences.
The exercise class was more clinically effective than traditional general practitioner management, regardless of patient preference, and was cost effective.
Key messagesPatients with back pain need to return to normal activities as soon as possible but are often afraid that movement or activity may be harmfulAn exercise programme led by a physiotherapist in the community and based on cognitive-behavioural principles helped patients to cope better with their pain and function better even one year laterPatients’ preferences for type of management did not affect outcomePatients in the intervention group tended to use fewer healthcare resources and took fewer days off workThis type of exercise programme should be more widely available
PMCID: PMC28176  PMID: 10426734
9.  Patterns and Determinants of Multiple Provider Use in Patients with Acute Low Back Pain 
To describe the patterns of provider use associated with an acute episode of nonspecific low back pain and their impact on cost.
The analysis is based on a prospective cohort study of patients with acute low back pain followed until they recovered completely or to 6 months. Patients were followed after an initial visit to one of four provider types: private primary care physician, chiropractor, orthopedic surgeon, or HMO primary care physician. Follow-up interviews were conducted at baseline, 2, 4, 8, 12, and 24 weeks; 1,580 (97%) of the participants completed the 6-month follow-up.
Seventy-nine percent of patients saw only the initial provider who began their care for low back pain. Logistic regression revealed that duration of pain prior to initial visit, sciatica, higher Roland disability score, days to functional recovery, interval to complete recovery, referral by initial provider, disk attribution, satisfaction, and the type of index provider were significantly (p < .05) associated with seeking care from multiple provider types. Age, race, gender, and education were not significant. The adjusted proportions of multiple provider type use were 14% (95% confidence interval [CI] 11%, 17%) for the private primary care provider stratum; 19% (95% CI 16%, 23%) for the chiropractic stratum; 30% (95% CI 23%, 37%) for the orthopedic stratum; and 9% (95% CI 5%, 14%) for the HMO primary care physician stratum. Cost of seeing only the index provider was $439 (95% CI $404, $475), and cost of seeing multiple provider types was $1,137 (95% CI $1,064, $1,211) based on the adjusted model.
Use of multiple provider types, is associated with several factors, one of which is the initial provider type. The cost of such use is significant.
PMCID: PMC1497001  PMID: 9734789
low back pain; health care utilization; cost; disability; chiropractors
10.  Low back pain: what determines functional outcome at six months? An observational study 
The rise in disability due to back pain has been exponential with escalating medical and societal costs. The relative contribution of individual prognostic indicators to the pattern of recovery remains unclear. The objective of this study was to determine the prognostic value of demographic, psychosocial, employment and clinical factors on outcome in patients with low back pain
A prospective cohort study with six-month follow-up was undertaken at a multidisciplinary back pain clinic in central London employing physiotherapists, osteopaths, clinical psychologists and physicians, receiving referrals from 123 general practitioners. Over a twelve-month period, 593 consecutive patients referred from general practice with simple low back pain were recruited. A baseline questionnaire was developed to elicit information on potential prognostic variables. The primary outcome measures were change in 24-item Roland Morris disability questionnaire score at six months as a measure of low back related functional disability and the physical functioning scale of the SF-36, adjusted for baseline scores.
Roland Morris scores improved by 3.8 index points (95% confidence interval 3.23 to 4.32) at six months and SF-36 physical functioning score by 10.7 points (95% confidence interval 8.36 to 12.95). Ten factors were linked to outcome yet in a multiple regression model only two remained predictive. Those with episodic rather than continuous pain were more likely to have recovered at six months (odds ratio 2.64 confidence interval 1.25 to 5.60), while those that classified themselves as non-white were less likely to have recovered (0.41 confidence interval 0.18 to 0.96).
Analysis controlling for confounding variables, demonstrated that participants showed greater improvement if their episodes of pain during the previous year were short-lived while those with Middle Eastern, North African and Chinese ethnicity demonstrated minimal improvement. The study did not support previous findings that a wide range of factors could predict outcome.
PMCID: PMC2973928  PMID: 20942925
11.  Intensive group training protocol versus guideline physiotherapy for patients with chronic low back pain: a randomised controlled trial 
European Spine Journal  2008;17(9):1193-1200.
Intensive group training using principles of graded activity has been proven to be effective in occupational care for workers with chronic low back pain. Objective of the study was to compare the effects of an intensive group training protocol aimed at returning to normal daily activities and guideline physiotherapy for primary care patients with non-specific chronic low back pain. The study was designed as pragmatic randomised controlled trial with a setup of 105 primary care physiotherapists in 49 practices and 114 patients with non-specific low back pain of more than 12 weeks duration participated in the study. In the intensive group training protocol exercise therapy, back school and operant-conditioning behavioural principles are combined. Patients were treated during 10 individual sessions along 20 group sessions. Usual care consisted of physiotherapy according to the Dutch guidelines for Low Back Pain. Main outcome measures were functional disability (Roland Morris disability questionnaire), pain intensity, perceived recovery and sick leave because of low back pain assessed at baseline and after 6, 13, 26 and 52 weeks. Both an intention-to-treat analysis and a per-protocol analysis were performed. Multilevel analysis did not show significant differences between both treatment groups on any outcome measures during the complete follow-up period, with one exception. After 26 weeks the protocol group showed more reduction in pain intensity than the guideline group, but this difference was absent after 52 weeks. We finally conclude that an intensive group training protocol was not more effective than usual physiotherapy for chronic low back pain.
PMCID: PMC2527421  PMID: 18663487
Low back pain; Physiotherapy; Randomized controlled trial; Graded activity; Group training
12.  The relationship between pain-related fear and lumbar flexion during natural recovery from low back pain 
European Spine Journal  2007;17(1):97-103.
Pain-related fear has been associated with avoidance behavior and increased risk for chronic low back pain; however, few studies have examined how pain-related fear relates specifically to motion of the spine following an acute episode of back pain. Thirty-six participants with a recent episode of low back pain were recruited from the general population using a combination of fliers and radio advertisements. To explore the natural recovery from low back pain we recruited individuals who were not seeking medical care. Participants performed a forward bending task at 3, 6, and 12 weeks following onset of low back pain. Three-dimensional joint motions of the spine and hip were recorded using an electromagnetic tracking device. Initial assessments of low back pain and pain-related fear were then correlated with joint excursions observed during each forward bending. Lumbar motion was inversely related to pain-related fear, but not low back pain, at all three testing sessions. In contrast, hip motion was inversely related to pain at all three testing sessions but was not related to fear. These findings suggest that pain-related fear results in avoidance behavior that specifically limits or restricts motion of the lumbar spine.
PMCID: PMC2365523  PMID: 17972113
Lumbar flexion; Pain-related fear; Back Pain
13.  The Prognosis of Acute Low Back Pain in Primary Care in the U.S. A 2-Year Prospective Cohort Study 
Spine  2012;37(8):678-684.
Study Design
Prospective cohort study
to assess the prognosis of patients presenting with acute low back pain (LBP) in a primary care setting in the U.S.
Summary of Background Data
Practice guidelines for acute LBP based on return-to-work outcomes underestimate the development of chronic pain in the primary care setting. Due to differences in inclusion criteria, chronic pain definitions and national health systems, prognostic cohort studies have reported a wide range of results limiting interpretation and generalization. Current data from carefully designed prognostic studies of acute LBP are lacking for the U.S. primary care system.
Members of a large health service organization were enrolled after seeking medical care for acute LBP, with or without sciatica, of up to 30 days duration, with no prior episode in the past 12 months and no history of spine surgery. We conducted phone interviews at baseline, six months and two years. Based on receiver operating characteristic analyses, a combination of global perceived recovery with pain intensity was used as primary outcome for chronic pain. Recurrence and multiple secondary outcomes were assessed to allow for comparison with other studies.
605 patients had an average pain intensity of 5.6 (numeric rating scale 0–10) and disability of 15.8 (Roland Morris scale 0–24). Eight percent had declared sick leave between pain onset and baseline interview. 13% of 521 patients (86% follow-up) suffered from chronic pain at six months and 19% of 443 patients at 2 years. At six months, 54% had experienced at least one LBP recurrence, and 47% in the subsequent 18 months.
The prognosis of strictly-defined acute LBP, with or without sciatica, is less favorable than commonly stated in practice guidelines based on failure to return to work. Broad initiatives to develop new means for the primary and secondary prevention of recurrent and chronic LBP are urgently needed.
PMCID: PMC3335773  PMID: 22504516
Low Back Pain; Prognosis; Acute Pain; Chronic Pain
14.  Cost effectiveness of a multi-stage return to work program for workers on sick leave due to low back pain, design of a population based controlled trial [ISRCTN60233560] 
To describe the design of a population based randomized controlled trial (RCT), including a cost-effectiveness analysis, comparing participative ergonomics interventions between 2–8 weeks of sick leave and Graded Activity after 8 weeks of sick leave with usual care, in occupational back pain management.
An RCT and cost-effectiveness evaluation in employees sick-listed for a period of 2 to 6 weeks due to low back pain. Interventions used are 1. Communication between general practitioner and occupational physician plus Participative Ergonomics protocol performed by an ergonomist. 2. Graded Activity based on cognitive behavioural principles by a physiotherapist. 3. Usual care, provided by an occupational physician according to the Dutch guidelines for the occupational health management of workers with low back pain. The primary outcome measure is return to work. Secondary outcome measures are pain intensity, functional status and general improvement. Intermediate variables are kinesiophobia and pain coping. The cost-effectiveness analysis includes the direct and indirect costs due to low back pain. The outcome measures are assessed before randomization (after 2–6 weeks on sick leave) and 12 weeks, 26 weeks and 52 weeks after first day of sick leave.
The combination of these interventions has been subject of earlier research in Canada. The results of the current RCT will: 1. crossvalidate the Canadian findings in an different sociocultural environment; 2. add to the cost-effectiveness on treatment options for workers in the sub acute phase of low back pain. Results might lead to alterations of existing (inter)national guidelines.
PMCID: PMC317323  PMID: 14629775
Low back pain; Graded Activity; Participative Ergonomics; Return to work; Randomized Controlled Trial; Cost-effectiveness; Occupational health
15.  Psychosocial factors and their predictive value in chiropractic patients with low back pain: a prospective inception cohort study 
Being able to estimate the likelihood of poor recovery from episodes of back pain is important for care. Studies of psychosocial factors in inception cohorts in general practice and occupational populations have begun to make inroads to these problems. However, no studies have yet investigated this in chiropractic patients.
A prospective inception cohort study of patients presenting to a UK chiropractic practice for new episodes of non-specific low back pain (LBP) was conducted. Baseline questionnaires asked about age, gender, occupation, work status, duration of current episode, chronicity, aggravating features and bothersomeness using Deyo's 'Core Set'. Psychological factors (fear-avoidance beliefs, inevitability, anxiety/distress and coping, and co-morbidity were also assessed at baseline. Satisfaction with care, number of attendances and pain impact were determined at 6 weeks. Predictors of poor outcome were sought by the calculation of relative risk ratios.
Most patients presented within 4 weeks of onset. Of 158 eligible and willing patients, 130 completed both baseline and 6-week follow-up questionnaires. Greatest improvements at 6 weeks were in interference with normal work (ES 1.12) and LBP bothersomeness (ES 1.37). Although most patients began with moderate-high back pain bothersomeness scores, few had high psychometric ones. Co-morbidity was a risk for high-moderate interference with normal work at 6 weeks (RR 2.37; 95% C.I. 1.15–4.74). An episode duration of >4 weeks was associated with moderate to high bothersomeness at 6 weeks (RR 2.07; 95% C.I. 1.19 – 3.38) and negative outlook (inevitability) with moderate to high interference with normal work (RR 2.56; 95% C.I. 1.08 – 5.08).
Patients attending a private UK chiropractic clinic for new episodes of non-specific LBP exhibited few psychosocial predictors of poor outcome, unlike other patient populations that have been studied. Despite considerable bothersomeness at baseline, scores were low at follow-up. In this independent health sector back pain population, general health and duration of episode before consulting appeared more important to outcome than psychosocial factors.
PMCID: PMC1852566  PMID: 17394652
16.  Spinal mechanical load: a predictor of persistent low back pain? A prospective cohort study 
European Spine Journal  2007;16(7):933-941.
Prospective inception cohort. To assess the prognostic value of spinal mechanical load, assessed with the 24-hour schedule (24HS), in subjects with acute non-specific low back pain (ALBP) and to examine the influence of spinal mechanical load on the course of ALBP. In view of the characteristics of the natural course of ALBP, this should be viewed as a persistent condition in many patients rather that a benign self-limiting disease. Therefore, secondary prevention could be beneficial. Spinal mechanical load is a risk factor for ALBP and possibly a (modifiable) prognostic factor for persistent (i.e. recurrent and/or chronic) LBP. One hundred patients from primary care with ALBP were eligible for inclusion. At 6 months, 88 subjects completed the follow-up. For the follow-up assessment a research assistant, unaware of our interest in the prognostic factors, contacted the subjects by telephone. Questionnaires were completed focusing on changes in demographic data and on the course and current status of ALBP. Persistent LBP occurred in 60% subjects. After multivariate regression analysis smoking (harmful) and advanced age (protective) were associated with persistent LBP. Differences in 24HS scores at baseline and follow-up were univariate-related to persistent LBP. Spinal mechanical load, quantified with the 24HS, is not a prognostic factor for persistent LBP. Modification of spinal mechanical load in terms of 24HS scores could be beneficial for secondary prevention in patients with acute LBP.
PMCID: PMC2219644  PMID: 17429701
Cohort; Follow-up; Low back pain; Prognosis; Mechanical load; 24-hour schedule
17.  Predicting persistent disabling low back pain in general practice: a prospective cohort study 
Patients may adopt active and/or passive coping strategies in response to pain. However, it is not known whether these strategies may also precede the onset of chronic symptoms and, if so, whether they are independent predictors of prognosis.
To examine, in patients with low back pain in general practice, the prognostic value of active and passive coping styles, in the context of baseline levels of pain, disability and pain duration.
Design of study
Prospective cohort study.
Nine general practices in north west England.
Patients consulting their GP with a new episode of low back pain were recruited to the study. Information on coping styles, pain severity, disability, duration, and a brief history of other chronic pain symptoms was recorded using a self-completion postal questionnaire. Participants were then sent a follow-up questionnaire, 3 months after their initial consultation, to assess the occurrence of low back pain. The primary outcome was persistent disabling low back pain, that is, low back pain at 3-month follow-up self-rated as ≥20 mm on a 100 mm visual analogue scale, and ≥5 on the Roland and Morris Disability Questionnaire.
A total of 974 patients took part in the baseline survey, of whom 922 (95%) completed a follow-up questionnaire; 363 individuals (39%) reported persistent disabling pain at follow-up. Persons who reported high levels of passive coping experienced a threefold increase in the risk of persistent disabling low back pain (relative risk [RR] = 3.0; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.3 to 4.0). In contrast, active coping was associated with neither an increase nor a decrease in the risk of a poor prognosis. After adjusting for baseline pain severity, disability, and other measures of pain and pain history, persons who reported a high passive coping score were still at 50% increased risk of a poor outcome (RR = 1.5; 95% CI = 1.1 to 2.0).
Patients who report passive coping strategies experience a significant increase in the risk of persistent symptoms. Further, this risk persists after controlling for initial pain severity and disability. The identification of this low back pain subgroup may help target future treatments to those at greatest risk of a poor outcome.
PMCID: PMC1837841  PMID: 16638248
coping behavior; general practice; low back pain; prognosis
18.  Prognostic factors for duration of sick leave in patients sick listed with acute low back pain: a systematic review of the literature 
Background: The percentages of patients with acute low back pain (LBP) that go on to a chronic state varies between studies from 2% to 34%. In some of these cases low back pain leads to great costs.
Aims: To evaluate the evidence for prognostic factors for return to work among workers sick listed with acute LBP.
Methods: Systematic literature search with a quality assessment of studies, assessment of levels of evidence for all factors, and pooling of effect sizes.
Results: Inclusion of studies in the review was restricted to inception cohort studies of workers with LBP on sick leave for less than six weeks, with the outcome measured in absolute terms, relative terms, survival curve, or duration of sick leave. Of the studies, 18 publications (14 cohorts) fulfilled all inclusion criteria. One low quality study, four moderate quality studies, and nine high quality studies were identified; 79 prognostic factors were studied and grouped in eight categories for which the evidence was assessed.
Conclusions: Specific LBP, higher disability levels, older age, female gender, more social dysfunction and more social isolation, heavier work, and receiving higher compensation were identified as predictors for a longer duration of sick leave. A history of LBP, job satisfaction, educational level, marital status, number of dependants, smoking, working more than 8 hour shifts, occupation, and size of industry or company do not influence duration of sick leave due to LBP. Many different constructs were measured to identify psychosocial predictors of long term sick leave, which made it impossible to determine the role of these factors.
PMCID: PMC1740930  PMID: 16299094
19.  Does physical activity change predict functional recovery in low back pain? Protocol for a prospective cohort study 
Activity advice and prescription are commonly used in the management of low back pain (LBP). Although there is evidence for advising patients with LBP to remain active, facilitating both recovery and return to work, to date no research has assessed whether objective measurements of free living physical activity (PA) can predict outcome, recovery and course of LBP.
An observational longitudinal study will investigate PA levels in a cohort of community-dwelling working age adults with acute and sub-acute LBP. Each participant's PA level, functional status, mood, fear avoidance behaviours, and levels of pain, psychological distress and occupational activity will be measured on three occasions during for 1 week periods at baseline, 3 months, and 1 year. Physical activity levels will be measured by self report, RT3 triaxial accelerometer, and activity recall questionnaires. The primary outcome measure of functional recovery will be the Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ). Free living PA levels and changes in functional status will be quantified in order to look at predictive relationships between levels and changes in free living PA and functional recovery in a LBP population.
This research will investigate levels and changes in activity levels of an acute LBP cohort and the predictive relationship to LBP recovery. The results will assess whether occupational, psychological and behavioural factors affect the relationship between free living PA and LBP recovery. Results from this research will help to determine the strength of evidence supporting international guidelines that recommend restoration of normal activity in managing LBP.
Trial registration
[Clinical Trial Registration Number, ACTRN12609000282280]
PMCID: PMC2777147  PMID: 19895697
20.  On the course of low back pain in general practice: a one year follow up study 
OBJECTIVES—Knowledge on the clinical course of low back pain presented in general practice is poor. Preceding studies offer a fragmentary view only, whereas further knowledge is important to enable the assessment of the prognosis. The object of this study is to investigate the course of low back pain presented in general practice to enable the assessment of the prognosis.
METHODS—A one year follow up study on the clinical course of low back pain in consecutive cases receiving usual care in general practice. During a period of two years 15 general practitioners from Amsterdam and surrounding areas included consecutive patients with both chronic and recent onset low back pain. After the initial visit, each patient was monitored for a period of 12 months. The follow up consisted of monthly postal questionnaires on the course of the low back pain and the related disability.
RESULTS—A total of 443 of 605 patients identified were included in the follow up, which was fully completed by 269 patients. In general, patients with less serious low back pain participated less often or did not complete the follow up. At 12 weeks 35% and at the end of the follow up 10% of the population, respectively, still suffered from low back pain. Both the pain and the disability seemed to diminish quickly after the initial visit, and both seemed to stabilise at a lower level if the low back pain did not disappear completely. About three of four patients, whose pain disappeared before the end of the follow up, endured one or more relapses within a year. The median time to a relapse was about seven weeks, and its median duration about six weeks. Both the pain and the disability turned out to be less severe during relapses. The median time to recovery for patients whose low back pain developed more than seven weeks before the initial visit, was four weeks longer than for patients with more recently developed low back pain at the initial visit.
CONCLUSIONS—The clinical course of low back pain presented in general practice, for the most patients, clearly is less favourable than expected. It takes more than just a few weeks to recover, and relapses occur within a year in most cases. Fortunately, both the pain and the disability quickly diminish, even if the low back pain does not resolve within a few weeks.

 Keywords: backache; prognosis; follow up study; general practice
PMCID: PMC1752458  PMID: 9536816
21.  The effectiveness of the McKenzie method in addition to first-line care for acute low back pain: a randomized controlled trial 
BMC Medicine  2010;8:10.
Low back pain is a highly prevalent and disabling condition worldwide. Clinical guidelines for the management of patients with acute low back pain recommend first-line treatment consisting of advice, reassurance and simple analgesics. Exercise is also commonly prescribed to these patients. The primary aim of this study was to evaluate the short-term effect of adding the McKenzie method to the first-line care of patients with acute low back pain.
A multi-centre randomized controlled trial with a 3-month follow-up was conducted between September 2005 and June 2008. Patients seeking care for acute non-specific low back pain from primary care medical practices were screened. Eligible participants were assigned to receive a treatment programme based on the McKenzie method and first-line care (advice, reassurance and time-contingent acetaminophen) or first-line care alone, for 3 weeks. Primary outcome measures included pain (0-10 Numeric Rating Scale) over the first seven days, pain at 1 week, pain at 3 weeks and global perceived effect (-5 to 5 scale) at 3 weeks. Treatment effects were estimated using linear mixed models.
One hundred and forty-eight participants were randomized into study groups, of whom 138 (93%) completed the last follow-up. The addition of the McKenzie method to first-line care produced statistically significant but small reductions in pain when compared to first-line care alone: mean of -0.4 points (95% confidence interval, -0.8 to -0.1) at 1 week, -0.7 points (95% confidence interval, -1.2 to -0.1) at 3 weeks, and -0.3 points (95% confidence interval, -0.5 to -0.0) over the first 7 days. Patients receiving the McKenzie method did not show additional effects on global perceived effect, disability, function or on the risk of persistent symptoms. These patients sought less additional health care than those receiving only first-line care (P = 0.002).
When added to the currently recommended first-line care of acute low back pain, a treatment programme based on the McKenzie method does not produce appreciable additional short-term improvements in pain, disability, function or global perceived effect. However, the McKenzie method seems to reduce health utilization although it does not reduce patient's risk of developing persistent symptoms.
Trial Registration
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry: ACTRN12605000032651
PMCID: PMC2842230  PMID: 20102596
22.  Prognosis of subacute low back pain patients according to pain response 
European Spine Journal  2007;17(1):57-63.
Centralization of referred pain or failure to centralize has in earlier studies been shown to be a predictor of low back pain prognosis. Research suggests that there are differences in how males and females experience pain. The aim of this study was to evaluate the outcome after 1 year, and to evaluate the prognostic value of the pain response in a mechanical test at the first consultation at a spine clinic, and the influence of gender, in order to identify patients with especially high risk of chronicity. The patients in this study were low back pain patients, included consecutively from a spine clinic in Northern Denmark. The criteria for entering this spine clinic were neck or low back pain with radiating symptoms and a duration of 4–26 weeks, without satisfactory improvement after treatment in the primary care system. The 793 patients were categorised into four subgroups according to their pain response in a mechanical test performed at the initial examination: centralization, non-lasting centralization, peripheralization and no effect. The patients were instructed in doing specific exercises according to the test results. The four subgroups were compared after 1 year with regard to changes in back and leg pain, disability and return-to-work status. The statistical evaluation was undertaken for the study group as a whole and stratified according to gender. A significant improvement in all outcome measures was found in all the subgroups, among both men and women. There were no systematic or statistically significant differences in the prognosis between the four subgroups of patients. The proportion of Centralizers in this study was 18%. The mechanical test at baseline is important for deciding the subject-specific exercises, but when treated according to test results, the prognostic value of the test seems limited.
PMCID: PMC2365517  PMID: 17805584
Low back pain; Prognosis; Mechanical diagnosis and therapy; Directional preference; Gender
23.  Preliminary study into the components of the fear-avoidance model of LBP: change after an initial chiropractic visit and influence on outcome 
In the last decade the sub grouping of low back pain (LBP) patients according to their likely response to treatment has been identified as a research priority. As with other patient groups, researchers have found few if any factors from the case history or physical examination that are helpful in predicting the outcome of chiropractic care. However, in the wider LBP population psychosocial factors have been identified that are significantly prognostic. This study investigated changes in the components of the LBP fear-avoidance beliefs model in patients pre- and post- their initial visit with a chiropractor to determine if there was a relationship with outcomes at 1 month.
Seventy one new patients with lower back pain as their primary complaint presenting for chiropractic care to one of five clinics (nine chiropractors) completed questionnaires before their initial visit (pre-visit) and again just before their second appointment (post-visit). One month after the initial consultation, patient global impression of change (PGIC) scores were collected. Pre visit and post visit psychological domain scores were analysed for any association with outcomes at 1 month.
Group mean scores for Fear Avoidance Beliefs (FAB), catastrophisation and self-efficacy were all improved significantly within a few days of a patient's initial chiropractic consultation. Pre-visit catastrophisation as well as post-visit scores for catastrophisation, back beliefs (inevitability) and self-efficacy were weakly correlated with patient's global impression of change (PGIC) at 1 month. However when the four assessed psychological variables were dichotomised about pre-visit group medians those individuals with 2 or more high variables post-visit had a substantially increased risk (OR 36.4 (95% CI 6.2-213.0) of poor recovery at 1 month. Seven percent of patients with 1 or fewer adverse psychological variables described poor benefit compared to 73% of those with 2 or more.
The results presented suggest that catastrophisation, FAB and low self-efficacy could be potential barriers to early improvement during chiropractic care. In most patients presenting with higher psychological scores these were reduced within a few days of an initial chiropractic visit. Those patients who exhibited higher adverse psychology post-initial visit appear to have an increased risk of poor outcome at 1 month.
PMCID: PMC2923166  PMID: 20673330
24.  Current management and prognostic factors in physiotherapy practice for patients with shoulder pain: design of a prospective cohort study 
Shoulder pain is disabling and has a considerable socio-economic impact. Over 50% of patients presenting in primary care still have symptoms after 6 months; moreover, prognostic factors such as pain intensity, age, disability level and duration of complaints are associated with poor outcome. Most shoulder complaints in this group are categorized as non-specific. Musculoskeletal ultrasound might be a useful imaging method to detect subgroups of patients with subacromial disorders.
This article describes the design of a prospective cohort study evaluating the influence of known prognostic and possible prognostic factors, such as findings from musculoskeletal ultrasound outcome and working alliance, on the recovery of shoulder pain. Also, to assess the usual physiotherapy care for shoulder pain and examine the inter-rater reliability of musculoskeletal ultrasound between radiologists and physiotherapists for patients with shoulder pain.
A prospective cohort study including an inter-rater reliability study. Patients presenting in primary care physiotherapy practice with shoulder pain are enrolled. At baseline validated questionnaires are used to measure patient characteristics, disease-specific characteristics and social factors. Physical examination is performed according to the expertise of the physiotherapists. Follow-up measurements will be performed 6, 12 and 26 weeks after inclusion. Primary outcome measure is perceived recovery, measured on a 7-point Likert scale. Logistic regression analysis will be used to evaluate the association between prognostic factors and recovery.
The ShoCoDiP (Shoulder Complaints and using Diagnostic ultrasound in Physiotherapy practice) cohort study will provide information on current management of patients with shoulder pain in primary care, provide data to develop a prediction model for shoulder pain in primary care and to evaluate whether musculoskeletal ultrasound can improve prognosis.
PMCID: PMC3606323  PMID: 23399098
25.  The COPE LBP trial: Cognitive Patient Education for Low Back Pain - a cluster randomized controlled trial in primary care 
Non-specific low back pain (LBP) is usually self-limiting within 4-6 weeks. Longstanding pain and disability are not predictable from clinical signs or pathoanatomical findings. Pain cognition and physical performance have been shown to improve patients with chronic LBP following neurophysiological education. The primary aim of this study is to evaluate whether a specific cognitive based education programme for patients with LBP in primary care is more effective than normal care in terms of increased function. The secondary aims of the study are to evaluate whether this intervention also results in earlier return to work, decreased pain, increased patient satisfaction, increased quality-of-life, and cost utility.
Cluster randomised controlled trial with 20 general practitioners and 20 physiotherapists in primary care as the unit of randomisation. Each practitioner will recruit up to 10 patients, aged 20 to 55 years, with non-specific sub-acute/chronic LBP of more than four weeks but less than 1 year's duration. Practitioners in the intervention arm will provide cognitive patient education intervention in up to four weekly sessions, each lasting 30 minutes. Practitioners in the control arm will provide normal treatment, but have to make four appointments for the patients. Patients, outcome assessors, and study statistician will be blinded to group allocation.
We present the rationale and design of an ongoing RCT study that potentially offers an easily implemented treatment strategy for LBP patients in primary care. The results will be available in 2012.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC2839981  PMID: 20158897

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