The current study examined the prospective relationship between pain-related fear and altered motor behavior, as well as perceived interference, among 51 healthy participants following induction of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) to the trunk extensor muscles. Healthy participants without history of back pain completed standardized reaches to high and low targets at self-paced and rapid speeds before and after induction of acute low back pain using a DOMS paradigm. Pain-related fear was assessed prior to DOMS induction. Three-dimensional joint motions of the thoracic spine, lumbar spine, and hip were recorded using an electromagnetic tracking device. DOMS-induced differences between high- and low-fear participants were observed for lumbar spine flexion, but not for thoracic or hip flexion. Pain-related fear scores were not predictive of lumbar flexion during baseline, but predicted reduced lumbar flexion during self- and fast-paced trials to low target locations once DOMS was induced. Pain-related fear was likewise predictive of perceived interference in life activities following DOMS induction. The findings suggest that initially pain-free individuals with high pain-related fear adopt avoidant spinal strategies during common reaching movements shortly after injury is sustained, which may comprise a risk factor for future pain and disability.
Copyright © 2012 International Association for the Study of Pain. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.