METHODS: 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.
RESULTS: 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).
CONCLUSION: 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.
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