Psychiatric disorders and risk of transition to chronicity in men with first onset low back pain

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Family Medicine and Community Health

Publication Date


Document Type



Adolescent; Adult; Chronic Disease; Humans; Low Back Pain; Male; Mental Disorders; Middle Aged; Pain Measurement; Psychiatric Status Rating Scales; Risk Factors; Tobacco Use Disorder; Young Adult


Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Preventive Medicine | Primary Care


OBJECTIVE: To assess whether pre-existing psychiatric diagnoses increase the likelihood of transitioning from sub-acute to chronic back pain. DESIGN: Prospective cohort study.

METHODS: Men (N = 140) experiencing a first onset of low back pain (LBP) were examined for lifetime psychiatric disorders approximately 8 weeks post pain-onset using the Diagnostic Interview Schedule (DIS-III-R), then re-evaluated at 6 months after pain onset to determine who did or did not progress to pain chronicity.

OUTCOME MEASURE: Transition to chronic pain and disability was based on 6-month self-report measures of pain intensity and perceived disability.

RESULTS: Men with a pre-pain lifetime diagnosis of major depressive disorder had 5 times greater risk of transitioning to chronic LBP (odds ratio [OR] = 4.99; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.49-16.76). Increased risk was also associated with a pre-pain lifetime diagnosis of generalized anxiety (OR = 2.45; 95% CI 1.06-5.68), post-traumatic stress (OR = 3.23; 95% CI 1.11-9.44), and with current nicotine dependence (OR = 2.49; 95% CI 1.15-5.40). There were no statistically significant effects for abuse or dependence of alcohol or other psychoactive substances.

DISCUSSION: Lifetime history of major depression or a major anxiety disorder may represent potential psychosocial "yellow flags" for the transition to chronicity in men with first-onset LBP. Screening for lifetime depressive or anxiety disorders may identify individuals at higher risk, who may benefit from referral for more intensive rehabilitation.

DOI of Published Version


Journal/Book/Conference Title

Pain medicine (Malden, Mass.)

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