Measuring the impact of chronic low back pain on everyday functioning: content validity of the Roland Morris disability questionnaire

J Patient Rep Outcomes. 2020 Aug 28;4(1):70. doi: 10.1186/s41687-020-00234-5.


Background: Robust outcome measures are needed to assess and monitor the impact of chronic low back pain (CLBP) on physical functioning. The Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ) is a well-established measure designed to capture the impacts of back pain on everyday functioning, with a particular emphasis on physical functioning. It has documented evaluation of psychometric properties. However, there is no documented qualitative evidence to confirm the content validity of the tool, nor have changes made for electronic administration been debriefed in participants with CLBP.

Methods: In-depth, semi-structured, concept elicitation and cognitive debriefing interviews were conducted with 23 US participants with confirmed CLBP. Interviews allowed participants to describe the impact of CLBP on their day-to-day functioning and discuss comprehension and suitability of the RMDQ. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using thematic analysis.

Results: Concept elicitation and cognitive debriefing revealed the substantial burden associated with CLBP, highlighting 15 key areas of functional impact. These were grouped into overarching themes of mobility (walking, stairs, sitting/standing, bending/kneeling, lifting, lying down), activities (chores/housework, dressing, washing, driving, work) and other (relationships/socializing, mood, sleep, appetite), which are consistent with those evaluated within the RMDQ. All participants found the RMDQ to be relevant with most reporting that the instructions, recall period, and response options were suitable. A few suggested minor changes, however, none were consistent or necessary to support content validity. Updates to the measure for electronic administration and to clarify the response options were well received.

Conclusion: The qualitative data from individuals with CLBP confirmed that the RMDQ has content validity and, alongside documented psychometric evidence, supports the use of the RMDQ as a reliable and valid tool to assess the impact of CLBP on physical functioning.

Keywords: Chronic low back pain; Cognitive debriefing; Concept elicitation; Content validity; PRO development; Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ).