Psycho-social factors and coping strategies as predictors of chronic evolution and quality of life in patients with low back pain: a prospective study

Eur J Pain. 2006 Jan;10(1):1-11. doi: 10.1016/j.ejpain.2005.01.003.


Low back pain (LBP) is a major problem of public health. Chronic pain is the most difficult to treat and the most expensive. The way patients cope with their pain may influence its outcome.

Aim: To identify coping strategies of LBP patients, and their influence on LBP evolution.

Methods: Ninety nine patients were assessed just after an acute LBP episode and one year later. Assessment tools included medical and social reports, scales of anxiety, depression, quality of life, locus of control (LOC), social support and coping strategies.

Results: One year after the initial episode, 67% of patients have improved and 33% had a chronic pain. A principal components analysis showed that two main dimensions might be identified inside the outcome: functional and emotional non-adjustment. Functional non-adjustment was predicted by male gender, reduction of activity, and history of trauma over one year. Emotional non-adjustment was only predicted by trait-depression. Reactions to pain were structured in four factors: distraction-praying, helplessness-hopelessness, cognitive restructuration and perceived control. Two of these factors predicted adjustment one year later: distraction-praying had a direct effect on functional non-adjustment, and helplessness-hopelessness on emotional issue.

Conclusions: Besides somatic factors, psychosocial predictors of LBP chronic evolution may be identified. Both aspects must be taken into account in order to prevent chronic pain. Perhaps cognitive-behavior therapy may help LBP patients to cope with pain in a better way.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement / psychology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Social Environment
  • Surveys and Questionnaires