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Papers: 1 Jun 2024 - 7 Jun 2024

2024 May 31

J Pain


The influence of pain hypersensitivity and psychological factors on pain and disability in the transition from acute to chronic low back pain: a longitudinal exploratory investigation and cluster analysis.


Chang WJ, Jenkins LC, Humburg P, Schabrun SM


Pain hypersensitivity is present in some people with acute low back pain (LBP) and thought to be involved in the development of chronic LBP. Early evidence suggests that pain hypersensitivity in acute LBP precedes poor long-term outcome. We aimed to examine whether the presence of pain hypersensitivity in acute LBP influenced recovery status at six months and differentiated how pain and disability changed over time. Participants with acute non-specific LBP (<6 weeks after pain onset, N=118) were included in this longitudinal study. Quantitative sensory testing including pressure and heat pain thresholds and conditioned pain modulation and questionnaires were compared at baseline and longitudinally (at three and six months) between recovered and unrecovered participants. Using k-means clustering, we identified subgroups based on baseline sensory measures alone, and in combination with psychological factors, and compared pain and disability outcomes between subgroups. Sensory measures did not differ at baseline or longitudinally between recovered (N=50) and unrecovered (N=68) participants. Subgrouping based on baseline sensory measures alone did not differentiate pain or disability outcomes at any timepoint. Participants with high psychological distress at baseline (N=19) had greater disability, but not pain, at all timepoints than those with low psychological distress, regardless of the degrees of pain sensitivity. Our findings suggest that pain hypersensitivity in acute LBP does not precede poor recovery at six months or differentiate how pain and disability change over time. High psychological distress during acute LBP is associated with unremitting and pronounced disability, while pain severity is unaffected. PERSPECTIVE: Pain hypersensitivity is thought to be involved in the transition to chronic LBP. Contradictory to prevailing hypothesis, our findings suggest pain hypersensitivity alone in acute LBP do not precede poor recovery. High psychological distress in acute LBP has stronger influence than pain hypersensitivity on long-term disability, but not pain outcomes.