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Risk and protective factors in the clinical rehabilitation of chronic back pain

Authors Wippert PM, Fliesser M, Krause M

Received 17 February 2017

Accepted for publication 31 May 2017

Published 6 July 2017 Volume 2017:10 Pages 1569—1579


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Katherine Hanlon

Pia-Maria Wippert,1,2 Michael Fliesser,1 Matthias Krause,3

1Department of Health Sciences, Institute for Sociology of Health and Physical Activity, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany; 2Department of Health Sciences and Technology, ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland; 3Median-Rehabilitation Clinic, Hoppegarten, Germany

Chronic back pain (CBP) can lead to disability and burden. In addition to its medical causes, its development is influenced by psychosocial risk factors, the so-called flag factors, which are categorized and integrated into many treatment guidelines. Currently, most studies investigate single flag factors, which limit the estimation of individual factor significance in the development of chronic pain. Furthermore, factors concerning patients’ lifestyle, biography and treatment history are often neglected. Therefore, the objectives of the present study are to identify commonly neglected factors of CBP and integrate them into an analysis model comparing their significance with established flag factors.
Methods: A total of 24 patients and therapists were cross-sectionally interviewed to identify commonly neglected factors of CBP. Subsequently, the impact of these factors was surveyed in a longitudinal study. In two rehabilitation clinics, CBP patients (n = 145) were examined before and 6 months after a 3-week inpatient rehabilitation. Outcome variables, chronification factor pain experience (CF-PE) and chronification factor disability (CF-D), were ascertained with confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) of standardized questionnaires. Predictors were evaluated using stepwise calculations of simple and multiple regression models.
Through interviews, medical history, iatrogenic factors, poor compliance, critical life events (LEs), social support (SS) type and effort–reward were identified as commonly neglected factors. However, only the final three held significance in comparison to established factors such as depression and pain-related cognitions. Longitudinally, lifestyle factors found to influence future pain were initial pain, physically demanding work, nicotine consumption, gender and rehabilitation clinic. LEs were unexpectedly found to be a strong predictor of future pain, as were the protective factors, reward at work and perceived SS.
Discussion: These findings shed insight regarding often overlooked factors in the development of CBP, suggesting that more detailed operationalization and superordinate frameworks would be beneficial to further research.
Conclusion: In particular, LEs should be taken into account in future research. Protective factors should be integrated in therapeutic settings.

Keywords: yellow flags, life events, clinical pain research

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