The effect of social support in chronic back pain: number of treatment sessions and reported level of disability

Disabil Rehabil. 2021 Jun;43(11):1526-1531. doi: 10.1080/09638288.2019.1668969. Epub 2019 Sep 28.


Background: Chronic back pain is characterized by its duration and poor response to medical interventions and is a major health problem. Treatment up-take, adherence, and social support are key issues and are vital for recovery and functionality. However, there is limited research on the role of social support and treatment uptake and adherence for chronic back pain.

Aim: The aim of this study was to explore the impact of social support in terms of treatment uptake and adherence in chronic back pain patients in Australia.

Methods: Two hundred and one adult men and women completed a battery of questionnaires that assessed levels of social support and disability and treatment uptake and adherence.

Results: Stepwise multiple regression predicting treatment participation, produced a significant model that included participant's age and level of social support and accounted for 14% of the variance, F(2,179) = 14.10, p < 0.001, adj R2 = 0.14. Life control, affective distress and level of social support scores accounted for 26% of the variance in disability levels F(3,179) = 21.42, p < 0.001, adj R2 = 0.26.

Conclusion: The findings indicated that age, social support had a significant positive effect on the number of treatment sessions attended by participants and that life control, affective distress, and level of social support were negatively related to disability levels. The findings support interdisciplinary approaches, including social interventions as important part of any chronic back pain treatment.Implications for rehabilitationChronic back pain does not respond well to traditional rehabilitation methods based on the Medical Model.Social support has a significant impact on treatment adherence and disability. This study measures perceived social support from an emotional and instrumental perspective.Social support interventions as part of a multidisciplinary approach would be beneficial in the experience of chronic back pain.

Keywords: Social support; chronic back pain; compliance; disability; number of treatments; rehabilitation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Back Pain / therapy
  • Chronic Pain* / therapy
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Disabled Persons*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Social Support
  • Surveys and Questionnaires