Background: Long-term outcome in back pain is related mainly to cognitive factors such as pain-related beliefs and expectations. Most research has been performed on patient samples.
Purpose: This study aimed at investigating changes over time in reported back pain, pain intensity, disability, health care consumption, and sick leave as well as biopsychosocial factors over a 12-month period. A second aim was to identify predictors of reported pain, pain intensity, disability, health care consumption, and sick leave.
Method: As parts of a large back pain sample from a general population (n = 1,024), two groups-one with first-episode pain (n = 77) and one with long-term pain (n = 302)-responded twice to a self-administered questionnaire. Among participants reporting pain at both assessments, changes over time were analyzed and predictive models were tested.
Results: Generally, the results demonstrated overall stability in the self-reports over time. However, reported pain decreased in both groups, while pain catastrophizing and pain expectations increased in the first-episode group. Pain intensity and disability were predicted in regression models including four cognitive factors and initially reported levels of pain intensity and disability.
Conclusion: The significance of pain-related beliefs and expectations both in early and later stages of a back pain condition is pointed out. The results in this study based on a sample from the general population are in line with previous research on patient samples.