Burton, A. Kim, McClune, T.D., Clarke, R.D. and Main, Chris J. (2004) Long-term follow-up of patients with low back pain attending for manipulative care: outcomes and predictors. Manual Therapy, 9 (1). pp. 30-35. ISSN 1356-689X

Psychosocial factors are known to act as obstacles to recovery from low back pain, but predictors of longer-term outcomes are not established. An average 4-year follow-up of a cohort of 252 low back pain patients attending for manipulative care was conducted to describe the longer-term course of low back pain, and to identify predictors of outcomes. Clinical and psychosocial data were obtained at baseline. Mailed questionnaires collected self-reported outcomes (pain, disability, recurrence and care seeking). Among the 60% who responded, the statistically significant reduction in mean Roland Disability Questionnaire score seen at 1 year did not improve further during follow-up. At the 4-year point, 49% of respondents reported residual disability, and 59% reported at least ‘mild’ pain. Symptom recurrence beyond the 1-year point was reported by 78% of respondents, with half of them seeking further care. Recurrence and care seeking were related to fear avoidance beliefs and duration of presenting symptoms. The disability score at 4-years was statistically significantly related to baseline depressive symptoms and higher pain intensity. Low back pain presenting for manipulative care is characterized by high levels of recurrence and care seeking over at least 4-years for many patients. Because psychosocial factors at presentation exert a long-term influence, they need to be considered by manual therapists.

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