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Putting Physical Activity While Experiencing Low Back Pain in Context: Balancing the Risks and Benefits

Published:October 12, 2015DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apmr.2015.09.020

      Abstract

      Objective

      To analyze attitudes and beliefs about movement and physical activity in people with low back pain (LBP) and compare these beliefs between people with acute and chronic LBP.

      Design

      Qualitative inductive analysis of data collected via face-to-face semistructured interviews. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim.

      Setting

      Participants were purposively recruited from 1 region of New Zealand.

      Participants

      Persons with LBP (N=23), consisting of individuals with acute LBP (<6wk; n=12) and chronic LBP (>3mo; n=11).

      Interventions

      Not applicable.

      Main Outcome Measure

      Themes that emerged from participant interview transcripts using analysis based on Interpretative Description.

      Results

      Participants with acute and chronic LBP made judgments about physical activity and rest using the same conceptual model. Concerns about creating more pain, tissue damage, or impairment influenced the physical activity judgments of most participants with acute and chronic LBP. These perceived risks were balanced against the perceived benefits, the most important of which were psychological or social rather than physical. Judgments made by those with acute and chronic LBP were context dependent and influenced by the nature and duration of pain, the type of physical activity, the importance of the activity, and the participant's previous experience. Participants with acute pain who had not experienced back pain previously often expressed more uncertainty, whereas those with chronic LBP appeared to have developed cognitive rules that determined physical activity decisions.

      Conclusions

      Exploring the perceived risks, benefits, and contextual factors that influence decisions about physical activity and rest may help clinicians to understand the behavior of patients with acute and chronic LBP. Clinicians may best support their patients to engage in physical activity by providing an informed assessment of risks and an explanation about the range of potential benefits.

      Keywords

      List of abbreviations:

      LBP (low back pain)
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