ADOLESCENTS with back pain who hold negative beliefs about their pain may be more adversely impacted than those who have a positive outlook.
A recent study conducted at Curtin University and published in journal Physical Therapy used data from adolescents in the Raine Study to document unknown relationships among Lower Back Pain (LBP) experience, LBP impact and Back Pain Beliefs (BPBs) in 17-year-olds.
The cross-sectional evaluation was performed using 1,126 seventeen-year-old adolescents participating in the West Australian Pregnancy Cohort Raine Study.
Professor Peter O’Sullivan from the Curtin research team says the degree of disability by pain is influenced more by beliefs than by the degree of pain itself.
“What someone believes about the cause of and future consequences of pain will have a massive influence in terms of their behavioural response,” he says.
“Beliefs regarding protecting painful structures, of avoiding activity and fearing the future will have a profound impact in terms of how that person behaves.
“This can have the consequence of people being less active or taking more time off work or school. Also, the interesting thing about these beliefs is that they’re not related to the level of your pain.”
Participants in the study were given a BPB questionnaire as a validated tool asking a series of questions regarding beliefs about pain. The aim of these questions was to assess the relationship between beliefs about and impact of pain.
The adolescents also took a survey covering whether they have sought care, are taking medication, whether the pain has influenced or impacted on their day-to-day activities, whether they avoid sports or have taken time off school or work because of pain.
The research found that low back pain was a common experience in the cohort of 17-year-olds, with 50 per cent of the participants having experienced LBP and that differences in BPBs are associated with different levels of LBP impact at 17 years of age.
“Disabling back pain is such a huge health issue in adulthood we need to intervene quite early and adolescence is a perfect time as that’s when this problem emerges,” Prof O’Sullivan says.
“To give good education around the basis of pain and good management approaches which potentially contradict a lot of societal beliefs is something that we’re interested in pursuing.”
The team is now collecting data from the participants of the study at 23 years to analyse work productivity and time off work, and the relationship to BPBs.