Measurement Characteristics and Clinical Utility of the Pain Catastrophizing Scale in Individuals Experiencing Low Back Pain

Published:April 29, 2017DOI:
      Low back pain (LBP) is a leading cause of physical restriction in the United States and around the world, with an estimated lifetime prevalence rate of 38.9% reported among the general population globally.1 The Pain Catastrophizing Scale (PCS) is a 13-item, self-report instrument used to quantify pain experiences,2 and it was developed to facilitate research on the mechanisms by which pain catastrophizing influences the experience of pain.3 Respondents are asked to reflect on a previous episode of pain and indicate to what degree they experienced thoughts or feelings consistent with (1) rumination, (2) magnification, and (3) helplessness.2. 3. Items on the PCS were drawn from previous research related to catastrophic pain.3 Research demonstrates that the PCS is a valid measure for the functional evaluation of individuals with LBP. The clinically derived PCS total score has demonstrated excellent test-retest reliability and internal consistency.2. 4. 5. Additionally, the PCS has been shown to be useful in differentiating between patients experiencing pain in outpatient settings and individuals living in the community without pain.6 The PCS is free to use and can be administered and scored in <5 minutes, making it a clinically useful and low-burden instrument to incorporate in routine clinical practice.
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        Hoy D, Bain C, Williams G, et al. A systematic review of the global prevalence of low back pain. Arthritis Rheumatol 2012;64:2028-37.
      • 2.
        Sullivan MJ, Bishop SR, Pivik J. The Pain Catastrophizing Scale: development and validation. Psychol Assess 1995;7:524-32.
      • 3.
        Sullivan MJ. The Pain Catastrophizing Scale user manual. 2009. Available at: Accessed March 3, 2017.
      • 4.
        Fernandes L, Storheim K, Lochting I, Grotle M. Cross-cultural adaptation and validation of the Norwegian Pain Catastrophizing Scale in patients with low back pain. BMC Musculoskelet Disord 2012;13:111.
      • 5.
        Lopes RA, Dias RC, Queiroz BZ, et al. Psychometric properties of the Brazilian version of the Pain Catastrophizing Scale for acute low back pain. Arq Neuropsiquiatr 2015;73:436-44.
      • 6.
        Osman A, Barrios FX, Gutierrez PM, Kopper BA, Merrifield T, Grittmann L. The Pain Catastrophizing Scale: further psychometric evaluation with adult samples. J Behav Med 2000;23:351-65.
      This abbreviated summary provides a review of the psychometric properties of the PCS in people with LBP. A full review of the PCS and reviews of nearly 375 other instruments for patients with various health conditions can be found at:
      Please address correspondence to [email protected] .
      The instrument summary is designed to facilitate the selection of outcome measures by trained clinicians. The information contained in this summary represents a sample of the peer-reviewed research available at the time of this summary's publication. The information contained in this summary does not constitute an endorsement of this instrument for clinical practice. The views expressed are those of the summary authors and do not represent those of the author's employers, the instrument owner(s), Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, the Rehabilitation Measures Database, or the U.S. Department of Education. The information contained in this summary has not been reviewed externally.
      The Rehabilitation Measures Database and Instrument Summary Tear-sheets are funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, U.S. Department of Education through the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Improving Measurement of Medical Rehabilitation Outcomes (grant no. H133B090024).