Responsiveness of Common Outcome Measures for Patients With Low Back Pain

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1999 Sep 1;24(17):1805-12. doi: 10.1097/00007632-199909010-00010.


Study design: A prospective cohort study assessing the responsiveness of two disease-specific questionnaires and a generic health questionnaire for patients with low back pain and sciatica.

Objectives: To compare the responsiveness of the eight scales and two summery scales of the SF-36 questionnaire with that of the Oswestry Disability Index and Low Back Outcome Score questionnaires.

Summary of background data: Evaluation of treatment outcome is being determined more frequently from a patient's perspective, particularly the impact treatment has on current health status.

Methods: Patients were recruited from two orthopedic back pain clinics in a tertiary hospital. Patients completed the pretreatment questionnaire 1 month before treatment and follow-up questionnaires a minimum of 2-6 months after treatment. Patients undergoing surgery were also observed for a minimum of 2 years.

Results: Overall, the Oswestry Disability Index was most responsive; however, individual scales from the SF-36 questionnaire showed equal or greater sensitivity to change than the Oswestry Disability Index in each of the patient subgroups. The SF-36 Role Physical scale was prone to floor effects (a high percentage of respondents score zero), and the change scores from the SF-36 Role Emotional scale varied by 100 points in either direction in each of the patient subgroups.

Conclusion: Responsiveness varied according to which method was used in its calculation. The responsiveness of the SF-36 questionnaire shows that it can be a useful adjunct in the assessment of patients with low back pain when combined with disease-specific questionnaires.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Disability Evaluation*
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Low Back Pain / diagnosis*
  • Low Back Pain / psychology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement / methods*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sciatica / diagnosis
  • Sciatica / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*