The Impact of Illness Perceptions and Coping on the Association Between Back Pain and Health Outcomes in Patients Suspected of Having Axial Spondyloarthritis: Data From the SPondyloArthritis Caught Early Cohort

Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2018 Dec;70(12):1829-1839. doi: 10.1002/acr.23566.


Objective: To investigate whether illness perceptions and coping influence the relationship between back pain and health outcomes in patients suspected of having axial spondyloarthritis (SpA).

Methods: In the SPondyloArthritis Caught Early cohort, regression models were computed at baseline, with back pain intensity (range 0-10) as the determinant and health-related quality of life, the physical component summary score (PCS) and mental component summary (MCS) of the Short Form 36 (SF-36) health survey, or work productivity loss as outcomes. Subsequently, using Leventhal's Common-Sense Model of Self-Regulation, illness perceptions and, thereafter, coping were added to the models. Analyses were repeated for patients diagnosed and classified as having axial SpA according to the Assessment of SpondyloArthritis international Society axial SpA criteria (ASAS axial SpA), patients only diagnosed with axial SpA (axial SpA-diagnosed only), and those with chronic back pain.

Results: A total of 424 patients (145 with ASAS axial SpA, 81 with only a diagnosis of axial SpA, and 198 with chronic back pain); 64% of the total group were female, the mean ± SD age was 30.9 ± 8.1 years, and the mean ± SD symptom duration was 13.3 ± 7.1 months) were studied. In all patients, the strength of the associations between back pain and the PCS, back pain and the MCS score, and back pain and loss of work productivity were decreased by adding illness perceptions to the model, but explained variance improved. Adding coping to these models did not change the results. Comparable results were observed in all subgroups.

Conclusion: Illness perception, but not coping, is important in the relationship between back pain and HRQoL and work productivity loss in patients suspected of having axial SpA, irrespective of subgroup. This finding suggests that targeting illness perceptions could improve health outcomes in patients suspected of having axial SpA.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Back Pain / diagnosis*
  • Back Pain / physiopathology
  • Back Pain / psychology
  • Chronic Pain / diagnosis*
  • Chronic Pain / physiopathology
  • Chronic Pain / psychology
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Efficiency
  • Employment
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Illness Behavior*
  • Male
  • Pain Measurement*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Quality of Life*
  • Spondylarthritis / diagnosis*
  • Spondylarthritis / physiopathology
  • Spondylarthritis / psychology
  • Young Adult