Low back pain is a common musculoskeletal condition with substantial individual and societal costs. Standardized self-report questionnaires are commonly used in clinical practice to identify prognostic risk factors and tailor interventions for low back pain. However, most of these low back pain questionnaires have been developed in Western cultures and may not be clinically applicable to other cultures. These cultural aspects have not been explored. This study aimed to investigate the cultural assumptions underlying back pain questionnaires and the potential implications of using standardized questionnaires with non-Western populations.


An interpretive qualitative design was employed.


Participants (N = 16) self-identified as coming from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.


Data collection and analysis were guided by thematic analysis. Four focus groups of three to five participants were conducted during which participants discussed two questionnaires commonly used in low back pain settings: the Fear-Avoidance Beliefs Questionnaire and Örebro Musculoskeletal Pain Questionnaire.


Analysis identified four themes: questionnaires affect the patient–clinician encounter; results are not only about back pain; questionnaires affect people’s understanding of their back pain; and results potentially affect people’s lives beyond their back condition.


Findings suggest that questionnaires could potentially negatively affect the patient–clinician rapport and lead to inaccurate and unanticipated results when used with culturally and linguistically diverse populations. Findings are also likely to be applicable to people with low back pain more broadly, regardless of culture. Implications include a need for cultural sensitivity when using questionnaires, greater consideration of when to use these measures, and adaptations to the use/design of standardized questionnaires.