The role of selected factors in the short-term prognosis of acute and chronic low back pain in patients attending Durban University of Technology Chiropractic Day Clinic
Allenbrook, Keric P.
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Background: The increasing cost and prevalence of chronic low back pain (LBP), has resulted in more resources being devoted to its treatment and management than ever before, despite only approximately 10% of acute cases progressing to chronicity. Determining prognostic factors for the short-term improvement of acute and chronic patients with LBP has become a research focus area to try and identify baseline factors that may affect a patients’ improvement with conservative treatment. Internationally studies have been conducted in developed countries however similar studies are lacking in developing settings like South Africa. It is unclear if the prognostic factors identified would be similar across populations. Thus, this study aimed to determine if pain, disability (social and physical), anxiety, depression, work fear-avoidance and locus of control, were associated with short-term prognosis, as determined by self-reported improvement using a Patients Global Impression of Change (PGIC) scale, in acute and chronic LBP patients attending the Durban University of Technology Chiropractic Day Clinic (DUT CDC). Method: Consecutive patients seeking treatment at the DUT CDC with a new episode of non-specific LBP, who met the study criteria, were approached for participation in the study. On agreeing to participate they were given the Bournemouth Questionnaire (BQ), a demographic questionnaire and a letter of information and consent (LOIC) at the initial consultation by student chiropractors. Those participants that were still attending treatment at the 4th/5th and tenth visit were required to complete the BQ and the PGIC. Results: A hundred participants were enrolled in the study, 65% had acute LBP and 52% were male. Only 20% of the initial group were still attending treatment at the 4th/5th follow-up. Baseline comparisons of those with acute and chronic pain revealed no significant difference in gender or age. Acute patients at the initial visit had higher levels of disability (social and physical), anxiety, depression and fear-avoidance beliefs than the chronic pain participants. At the 4th/5th treatment, the acute pain patients showed a significant decrease in pain (p=0.002) and disability (p=0.032), with all other measures decreasing from baseline measures. Similarly, chronic pain participants had a significant decrease in pain (p=0.038) but a significant increase in depression (p=0.015) scores, with all other prognostic factors being rated higher than at the initial consultation. The majority of participants (85%) in this study reported a clinical improvement in their LBP. In the acute pain sufferers, all but one participant reported improvement, thus identification of prognostic factors or this group was not possible. In the chronic pain participants, no factors were identified as prognostic for improvement, regardless of the low numbers still attending at the 4th/5th visit. Conclusions: Trends suggested that chronic pain sufferers were less likely to report decreases in the prognostic factors (except for pain), when compared to the acute pain participants. In the chronic LBP participants, no factors were associated with improved prognosis. The predictive value in determining which patients were less likely to improve was limited in the current study due to a small sample size.