While previous cross-sectional studies have found that negative beliefs about low back pain are associated with pain intensity, the relationship between back beliefs and persistent low back pain is not well understood. This cohort study aimed to examine the role of back beliefs in persistent low back pain in community-based individuals. A hundred and ninety-two participants from a previous musculoskeletal health study were invited to take part in a two-year follow-up study. Beliefs about back pain were assessed by the Back Beliefs Questionnaire (BBQ) at baseline and low back pain intensity was measured by the Chronic Pain Grade Questionnaire at baseline and follow-up. Of the 150 respondents (78.1%), 16 (10.7%) reported persistent high intensity low back pain, 12 (8.0%) developed high intensity low back pain, in 16 (10.7%) their high intensity low back pain resolved and 106 (70.7%) experienced no high intensity low back pain. While participants were generally positive about low back pain (BBQ mean (SD) = 30.2 (6.4)), those with persistent high intensity pain reported greater negativity (BBQ mean (SD) = 22.6 (4.9)). Negative beliefs about back pain were associated with persistent high intensity low back pain after adjusting for confounders (M (SE) = 23.5 (1.6) vs. >30.1 (1.7), p < .001). This study found negative back beliefs were associated with persistent high intensity low back pain over 2 years in community-based individuals. While further longitudinal studies are required, these findings suggest that targeting beliefs in programs designed to treat and prevent persistent high intensity low back pain may be important.
Keywords: Low back pain; beliefs; epidemiology; pain intensity; psychosocial factors.