Preliminary study into the components of the fear-avoidance model of LBP: change after an initial chiropractic visit and influence on outcome

Peter McCarthy, Jonathan R Field, Dave Newell

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Abstract

Background: In the last decade the sub grouping of low back pain (LBP) patients according to their likely response to treatment has been identified as a research priority. As with other patient groups, researchers have found few if any factors from the case history or physical examination that are helpful in predicting the outcome of chiropractic care. However, in the wider LBP population psychosocial factors have been identified that are significantly prognostic. This study investigated changes in the components of the LBP fear-avoidance beliefs model in patients pre- and post- their initial visit with a chiropractor to determine if there was a relationship with outcomes at 1 month.

Methods: Seventy one new patients with lower back pain as their primary complaint presenting for chiropractic care to one of five clinics (nine chiropractors) completed questionnaires before their initial visit (pre-visit) and again just before their second appointment (post-visit). One month after the initial consultation, patient global impression of change (PGIC) scores were collected. Pre visit and post visit psychological domain scores were analysed for any association with outcomes at 1 month.

Results: Group mean scores for Fear Avoidance Beliefs (FAB), catastrophisation and self-efficacy were all improved significantly within a few days of a patient’s initial chiropractic consultation. Pre-visit catastrophisation as well as post-visit scores for catastrophisation, back beliefs (inevitability) and self-efficacy were weakly correlated with patient’s global impression of change (PGIC) at 1 month. However when the four assessed psychological variables were dichotomised about pre-visit group medians those individuals with 2 or more high variables post-visit had a substantially increased risk (OR 36.4 (95% CI 6.2-213.0) of poor recovery at 1 month. Seven percent of patients with 1 or fewer adverse psychological variables described poor benefit compared to 73% of those with 2 or more.

Conclusions: The results presented suggest that catastrophisation, FAB and low self-efficacy could be potential barriers to early improvement during chiropractic care. In most patients presenting with higher psychological scores these were reduced within a few days of an initial chiropractic visit. Those patients who exhibited higher adverse psychology post-initial visit appear to have an increased risk of poor outcome at 1 month.
Original languageEnglish
JournalChiropractic and Osteopathy
Volume18
Issue number21
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010

Keywords

  • low back pain
  • physical therapies

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