METHODS This was a prospective cohort study involving adults with non-specific LBP referred from general practices to the Spine Centre at Silkeborg Regional Hospital, Denmark. Patients reported on their beliefs about the importance of finding the cause, the importance of diagnostic imaging, perceiving to have received advice to stay active, pain duration, pain intensity, and STarT Back Tool. Agreeing to: ‘An increase in pain is an indication that I should stop what I’m doing until the pain decreases’ adjusted for age, gender, and education level was the primary explanatory analysis. A 30% improvement in the Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ) score after 52 weeks was the outcome.
RESULTS 816 patients were included and 596 (73.0%) agreed that pain is a warning signal to stop being active. Among patients not considering pain as a warning signal, 80 (43.2%) had a favourable functional improvement of ≥30% on the RMDQ compared to 201 (41.2%) among patients considering pain a warning signal. No difference was found between the two groups (adjusted P = 0.542 and unadjusted P = 0.629). However, STarT Back Tool high-risk patients had a less favourable functional outcome (adjusted P = 0.003 and unadjusted P = 0.002). Chronic pain was associated with less favourable functional outcome (adjusted P < 0.001 and unadjusted P < 0.001), whereas beliefs about finding the cause, diagnostic imaging, perceiving to have received advice to stay active, or pain intensity were not significantly associated with outcome.
CONCLUSIONS Holding the single belief that pain is a warning signal to stop being active was not associated with functional outcome. However, patients characterised by having multiple psychological barriers (high-risk according to the STarT Back Tool) had a less favourable functional outcome.