Surveys prove to be useful for identifying the risk of prolonged low back pain

Despite low back pain being the most common cause of impairment for individuals and of considerable cost to society, its pain treatment has serious deficiencies.  According to recommendations, low back pain treatment should take psychosocial risk factors into account. Surveys aimed at people with back pain can identify individuals with clinically significant psychological, social and lifestyle-related risk factors for prolonged pain.

In England, the STarT Back Screening Tool has been developed to identify individual risk factors that may prolong the burden of back pain, and  in Sweden the Örebro Musculoskeletal Pain Questionnaire has been created to identify absence from work due to pain. On the basis of these two surveys, patients can be divided into low, medium and high risk categories. The association of social and lifestyle-related factors with the risk categories of both the surveys assessing prolonged pain has not been previously studied, and the surveys have not been compared in population datasets.

A study by the University of Oulu investigated how psychological (depression, anxiety, and fear of pain avoidance beliefs) social (educational level) and lifestyle-related factors (obesity, smoking, risky alcohol consumption, physical inactivity) are linked to the risk groups of the surveys in population data.

The study uses the data on Northern Finland birth cohort 1966 members who had suffered lower back pain in the preceding 12 months. According to the study, all of the studied and clinically relevant psychological, social and lifestyle-related risk factors were significantly more prevalent in the higher risk categories of the surveys.

The STarT tool showed that 4% of men and 3% of women belonged to the high-risk category. On the basis of the Örebro questionnaire, 7% of men and 9% of women were at high risk.

Early prevention of general ailments such as low back pain is important in its treatment  Targeting treatment and prevention towards those most in need and who could most benefit is the most cost-effective. Treatment based on the identification of risk categories to prevent impairment from low back pain requires further research.

A study by Licentiate of Medicine Anna Sofia Simula and her research team was published on January 14, 2020 in the Scientific Reports journal of the Nature publishing company.

Article: Association of STarT Back Tool and the short form of the Örebro Musculoskeletal Pain Screening Questionnaire with multidimensional risk factors.


Last updated: 20.1.2020