BACKGROUND: Most studies fail to show an association between higher levels of pain-related fear and protective movement behaviour in patients with chronic low back pain (CLBP). This may be explained by the fact that only general measures of pain-related fear have been used to examine the association with movement patterns. This study explored whether task-specific, instead of general measures of pain-related fear can predict movement behaviour.
METHODS: Fifty-five patients with CLBP and 54 healthy persons performed a lifting task while kinematic measurements were obtained to assess lumbar range of motion (ROM). Scores on the Photograph Daily Activities Series-Short Electronic Version (PHODA-SeV), Tampa Scale for Kinesiophobia and its Activity Avoidance and Somatic Focus subscales were used as general measures of pain-related fear. The score on a picture of the PHODA-SeV, showing a person lifting a heavy object with a bent back, was used as task-specific measure of pain-related fear.
RESULTS: Lumbar ROM was predicted by task-specific, but not by general measures of pain-related fear. Only the scores on one other picture of the PHODA-SeV, similar to the task-specific picture regarding threat value and movement characteristics, predicted the lumbar ROM. Compared to healthy persons, patients with CLBP used significantly less ROM, except the subgroup with a low score on the task-specific measure of pain-related fear, who used a similar ROM.
CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest to use task-specific measures of pain-related fear when assessing the relationship with movement. It would be of interest to investigate whether reducing task-specific fear changes protective movement behaviour.
SIGNIFICANCE: This study shows that lumbar range of motion in CLBP is predicted by task-specific, but not by general measures of pain-related fear. This suggests that both in clinical practice and for research purposes, it might be recommended to use task-specific measures of pain-related fear when assessing the relationship with movement behaviour. This may help to disentangle the complex interactions between pain-related fear, movement and disability in patients with CLBP.