The evolution of chronic back pain problems: a longitudinal study

Behav Res Ther. 1991;29(5):435-41. doi: 10.1016/0005-7967(91)90127-o.


A longitudinal evaluation of the recovery from an acute back pain episode was undertaken on 117 sufferers, with assessments at the onset, 3 and 6 months. The number of individuals still reporting pain at 6 months, and therefore qualifying for 'chronic pain', was considerably higher than expected (40%). At 6 months, the persisting pain problems were found to be moderate to severe in intensity in approx. 20% of cases. Despite the pain, the chronic sufferers showed gradual continuing adjustments to it, re-establishing activities despite pain. Most of the change in the pain components (cognitive, subjective, behavioral, depression, anxiety) occur in the first 3 months, after which considerable stability is evident in the residual problem. In contrast, the impact of the pain and the consequent disability decline more markedly and continue to do so right up to the 6 month point. There was no evidence of chronic pain evolving and growing, but rather of a persistence of the acute presentation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Back Pain / psychology*
  • Back Pain / rehabilitation
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Sick Role*
  • Somatoform Disorders / psychology*
  • Somatoform Disorders / rehabilitation