Predictors of functional outcome in patients with chronic low back pain undergoing back school, individual physiotherapy or spinal manipulation

Eur J Phys Rehabil Med. 2012 Sep;48(3):371-8. Epub 2012 May 8.


Background: Recent studies on chronic low back pain (cLBP) rehabilitation suggest that predictors of treatment outcome may be differ according to the considered conservative treatment.

Aim: To identify predictors of response to back school (BS), individual physiotherapy (IP) or spinal manipulation (SM) for cLBP.

Population: outpatients with cLBP.

Setting: Outpatient rehabilitation department.

Design: Retrospective analysis from a randomized trial.

Methods: Two hundred and ten patients with cLBP were randomly assigned to either BS, IP or SM; the Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire (RM) was assessed before and after treatment: those who decreased their RM score <2.5 were considered non-responders. Baseline potential predictors of outcome included demographics, general and cLBP history, life satisfaction.

Results: Of the 205 patients who completed treatment (140/205 women, age 58+14 years), non-responders were 72 (34.2%). SM showed the highest functional improvement and the lowest non-response rate. In a multivariable logistic regression, lower baseline RM score (OR 0.82, 95% CI 0.76-0.89, P<0.001) and received treatment (OR 0.32, 95% CI 0.21-0.50, P<0.001) were independent predictors of non-response. Being in the lowest tertile of baseline RM score (<6) predicted non response to treatment for BS and IP, but not for SM (same risk for all tertiles).

Conclusions: In our patients with cLBP lower baseline pain-related disability predicted non-response to physiotherapy, but not to spinal manipulation.

Clinical rehabilitation impact: Our results suggest that, independent form other characteristics, patients with cLBP and low pain-related disability should first consider spinal manipulation as a conservative treatment.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Disability Evaluation*
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / physiopathology
  • Low Back Pain / rehabilitation*
  • Male
  • Manipulation, Spinal / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome