Business and Management

Risk Factors Of Chronic Back Pain

Lower back pain affects over 80% of people at some point in their lives. While most instances are acute, meaning they resolve within 3-6 months, 5-10% of cases become chronic. Diagnosing back pain is one of the biggest challenges for medical professionals; prevention is always the best option.

How can you prevent chronic pain when you don't always know what causes it? One approach is to understand the risk factors associated with the progression of acute to chronic pain. Some of the best predictors are psychological and emotional states surrounding pain, along with the fear-avoidance behaviors they cause.

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Psychological and Emotional States

Pain is often not exclusively a physical phenomenon; experiencing pain takes a toll on our emotional and psychological lives. The reason for this is likely twofold:

1) the same neurotransmitters and areas of the brain are involved in processing both physical and emotional pain and 2) being in pain affects our quality of life by limiting our activities and simply placing us in a persistent unpleasant physical state. While it is normal to experience non-physical reactions to pain, the extent to which these reactions occur differs from person to person and can actually have a determining role in the prognosis of pain recovery.

Numerous studies have been conducted to assess the power of our psychological and emotional states to influence our physical health. One, entitled "Pain Catastrophizing and Kinesiophobia:

Predictors of Chronic Low Back Pain," assessed 1,571 Dutch participants. Catastrophizing is defined as the psychological state in which one thinks something is far worse than it really is. Kinesiophobia is a fear of movement, often brought on by pain. These two traits were assessed using questionnaires in which participants answered questions that described their reactions and feelings toward pain on a scale of 1-5.

The results: People with high catastrophizing and kinesiophobia scores were 1.5-1.7 times more likely to have lower back pain and limitation at the six month follow-up than those with lower scores.

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