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The StarT back screening tool and a pain mannequin improve triage in individuals with low back pain at risk of a worse prognosis - a population based cohort study

Journal article
Authors E. Haglund
A. Bremander
Stefan Bergman
Published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Volume 20
Issue 1
ISSN 1471-2474
Publication year 2019
Published at Institute of Medicine, School of Public Health and Community Medicine
Language en
Keywords Low back pain, Chronic widespread pain, Multisite pain, Population-based, cohort, Prognostic indicators, Questionnaire, fear-avoidance beliefs, primary-care, global burden, fibromyalgia, management, disability, classification, questionnaire, prevalence, widespread, Orthopedics, Rheumatology
Subject categories Rheumatology and Autoimmunity, Orthopedics


Abstract Background The STarT Back Screening Tool (SBT) identifies patients with low back pain (LBP) at risk of a worse prognosis of persistent disabling back pain, and thereby facilitates triage to appropriate treatment level. However, the SBT does not consider the pain distribution, which is a known predictor of chronic widespread pain (CWP). The aim of this study was to determine if screening by the SBT and screening of multisite chronic widespread pain (MS-CWP) could identity individuals with a worse prognosis. A secondary aim was to analyze self-reported health in individuals with and without LBP, in relation to the combination of these two screening tools. Methods One hundred and nineteen individuals (aged 40–71 years, mean (SD) 59 (8) years), 52 with LBP and 67 references, answered two screening tools; the SBT and a pain mannequin – as well as a questionnaire addressing self-reported health. The SBT stratifies into low, medium or high risk of a worse prognosis. The pain mannequin stratifies into either presence or absence of CWP in combination with ≥7 painful areas of pain (0–18), here defined as MS-CWP (high risk of worse prognosis). The two screening tools were studied one-by-one, and as a combined screening. For statistical analyses, independent t-tests and Chi-square tests were used. Results Both the SBT and the pain mannequin identified risk of a worse prognosis in individuals with (p = 0.007) or without (p = 0.001) LBP. We found that the screening tools identified partly different individuals at risk. The SBT identified one individual, while the pain mannequin identified 21 (19%). When combining the two screening methods, 21 individuals (17%) were at high risk of a worse prognosis. When analyzing differences between individuals at high risk (combined SBT and MS-CWP) with those at low risk, individuals at high risk reported worse health (p = 0.013 - < 0.001). Conclusions Both screening tools identified individuals at risk, but they captured different aspects, and also different number of individuals at high risk of a worse prognosis. Thus, using a combination may improve early detection and facilitate triage to appropriate treatment level with multimodal approach also in those otherwise missed by the SBT.

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