Biopsychosocial predictors of prognosis in musculoskeletal disorders: a systematic review of the literature

Disabil Rehabil. 2012;34(5):355-82. doi: 10.3109/09638288.2011.591889. Epub 2011 Dec 21.


Purpose: To review the prognostic factors of musculoskeletal disorders while adopting a multidimensional perspective and including studies on various pertinent outcomes to the adjustment process. We also aimed to highlight the overall and phase-specific evidence.

Methods: We searched the Psychinfo and Ovid Medline(R) databases as well as pertinent periodicals and reviews and retained prospective studies of subjects suffering from specific or non-specific musculoskeletal pain that adopted multivariate statistical analysis.

Results: We selected 105 studies, of which 68 included biopsychosocial and sociodemographic variables. For those studies using a biopsychosocial framework, we determined the level of evidence for every prognostic factor with each outcome. Strong evidence was found for recovery expectations and disability management with work participation outcomes. With disability outcomes, strong evidence was also found for recovery expectations, coping and somatization. Comorbidity and duration of episode strongly predicted pain outcomes. Some differences coinciding with phases of chronicity were also identified.

Conclusions: Although uncertainty remains about the role of many prognostic factors, we found strong evidence to support the predictive value of clinically significant variables. There is, however, a need for additional research and replication, adopting more homogenous models and measurement methods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Humans
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / psychology
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / psychology*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Workplace