Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Lower Spine News

Measuring Results of Treatment for Back Pain

What's the best test for measuring results of treatment for low back pain (LBP)? That's what researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia tried to find out. They tested 155 patients with LBP using four different tests. Each test was given before treatment and again six weeks after treatment. Various types of conservative treatment were used. Surgery was not included. The tests were:

  • Numerical pain scale
  • Roland Morris questionnaire
  • Patient-specific functional scale (PSFS)
  • Physical impairments

    These scales measure pain, disability, and physical impairment. Pain was rated from zero to 10. Zero meant there was no pain, and 10 meant the worst pain possible. Disability was measured by answering yes and no questions about daily activities. Physical impairment included range of motion, straight leg raise, and backward bending.

    The researchers found that the PSFS was most likely to show change in the patient's health after treatment. Physical impairment measures were the least likely to show change with treatment. Changes in disability and pain levels were much better measures of results than change in physical impairment.

    The authors offer some possible reasons why the PSFS is a better measure than the Roland Morris questionnaire. The PSFS can measure change over time and is quick and easy to use. They conclude that more focus should be placed on changes in disability and changes in pain level, rather than on changes in physical impairment.

    Liset H. M. Pengel, MSc, et al. Responsiveness of Pain, Disability, and Physical Impairment Outcomes in Patients with Low Back Pain. In Spine. April 15, 2004. Vol. 29. No. 8. Pp. 879-883.

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    *Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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