Severe Low Back Pain May Foretell Future Woes

TUESDAY Aug. 20, 2013 -- For people suffering from severe, short-term low back pain, an end may not be in sight: A new study finds that they're at increased risk for long-term pain and disability.

The study included 488 people who were treated for low back pain and were then sent questionnaires every six months for five years.

Higher levels of pain at the initial visit were associated with a 12 percent higher risk of pain six months later, and with a 9 percent increased risk of pain five years later.

Patients who will fail to find future relief may suspect it early on, the study suggests.

Participants' beliefs that their pain would persist was associated with a 4 percent increased risk at six months and a 6 percent increased risk at 5 years.

The study was published in the August issue of The Journal of Pain.

The findings confirm previous research showing that initial low back pain intensity is a key predictor of future pain and disability, but this study is the first to show this association over a long period of time, said researchers Paul Campbell and colleagues with the Arthritis Research U.K. Primary Care Center.

The investigators also said their study confirms the importance of pain relief in the early treatment of low back pain, and that patient beliefs that their pain will persist for a long time can predict progression to chronic low back pain.

Up to 70 percent of Americans will experience low back pain at some point in their lives and many will progress to long-term, chronic low back pain, according to a journal news release.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about low back pain.

Posted: August 2013


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