Saanichton Physical Therapy Blog

Low Back Pain Indicators

Back Pain


Back pain is common and many people experience long-term problems, yet little is known about what prognostic factors predict long-term outcomes. This study’s objective was to determine which factors predict short- and long-term outcomes in primary care consulters with low back pain (LBP). Analysis was carried out on 488 patients who had consulted their physician about LBP. Patients were followed up at 6 months and 5 years. Clinically significant LBP at follow-up was defined as a score of 2, 3, or 4 on the Chronic Pain Grade, indicating substantial pain and disability. Cox regression was used to estimate relative risks (RRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) on 32 potential predictive factors, organized into domains (demographic, physical, psychological, and occupational). Baseline pain intensity conferred a 12% increase in risk (RR = 1.12, 95% CI = 1.03–1.20), and patients’ belief that their LBP would persist conferred a 4% increase in risk (RR = 1.04, 95% CI = 1.01–1.07) for poor outcome at 6 months. Outcome at 5 years was best predicted by a model with the same factors as in the 6-month model: pain intensity increased risk by 9% (RR = 1.09, 95% CI = .997–1.20), and a belief that their LBP would persist increased risk by 6% (RR = 1.06, 95% CI = 1.03–1.09). Both predictors have the potential to be targets for clinical intervention.