Context: Although low back pain is a common medical condition that often progresses to become a chronic problem, little is known about the likelihood of recovery from chronic low back pain (CLBP).
Objectives: This study aimed to measure the risk of recovery from CLBP based on low back pain intensity and back-related functioning measures reported by participants within a pain research registry over 12 months of observation and to consider the implications for osteopathic medicine.
Methods: A total of 740 participants with CLBP in the Pain Registry for Epidemiological, Clinical, and Interventional Studies and Innovation in the United States were studied between April 2016 and October 2021. Inception cohorts for pain recovery and functional recovery were assembled from the participants who did not meet the recovery criteria at registry enrollment. The pain recovery criterion was having a score of ≤1/10 on a numerical rating scale for low back pain intensity, and the functional recovery criterion was having a score of ≤4/24 on the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire. A total of 737 and 692 participants were included in the inception cohorts for pain recovery and functional recovery, respectively. Participants provided follow-up data at quarterly encounters over 12 months to determine if they achieved and maintained a pain or functional recovery from CLBP over the entire period of observation. Logistic regression was utilized to identify factors associated with recovery.
Results: The mean age of the participants at baseline was 52.9 years (SD, 13.1 years) and 551 (74.5%) were female. No participant reported a pain recovery that was maintained over all four quarterly encounters, whereas 16 participants (2.3%; 95% CI, 1.2–3.4%) maintained a functional recovery. Having high levels of pain self-efficacy (OR, 17.50; 95% CI, 2.30–133.23; p=0.006) and being Hispanic (OR, 3.55; 95% CI, 1.11–11.37; p=0.03) were associated with functional recovery, and high levels of pain catastrophizing (OR, 0.15; 95% CI, 0.03–0.65; p=0.01) and having chronic widespread pain (OR, 0.23; 95% CI, 0.08–0.66; p=0.007) were inversely associated with functional recovery. The findings for pain self-efficacy and Hispanic ethnicity remained significant in the multivariate analysis that adjusted for potential confounders.
Conclusions: The absence of pain recovery and the low likelihood of functional recovery observed in our study suggests that osteopathic physicians should embrace a biopsychosocial approach to CLBP management and work with patients to set realistic expectations based on more pragmatic outcome measures, such as those that address health-related quality of life. The findings also suggest the potential importance of patient education and counseling to enhance pain self-efficacy.