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Ochsenkuehn, Franziska R.; Crispin, Alexander; Weigl, Martin B. (2022): Chronic low back pain: a prospective study with 4 to 15 years follow-up after a multidisciplinary biopsychosocial rehabilitation program. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 23 (1). ISSN 1471-2474

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Multidisciplinary biopsychosocial rehabilitation (MBR) in patients with chronic low back pain (CLBP) is superior to less intensive treatments for at least one year, but the long-term course of the disease is largely unknown. The primary aim of this study was to describe the long-term course of an MBR in relation to pain, disability, and quality of life from the beginning of an MBR to between 4 to 15 years after participation. The secondary aim was to explore the long-term course of an MBR in relation to physiological outcomes of functioning.

This was a observational study conducted at a university hospital. The cohort consisted of participants of a 3-week, CLBP-specific MBR program between August 2001 and January 2013. The North American Spine Society questionnaire (NASS) pain and disability scale was the primary patient -reported outcome measure (PROM). The NASS neurogenic symptoms scale and the Short-Form 36 (SF-36) health survey were secondary PROMs. Patients were assessed before entry to the MBR (T0), at entry (T1), at discharge (T2) and 4 to 15 years after discharge (T3). Effects were quantified by effect size (ES). Score differences were tested for significance using parametric or non-parametric tests and linear mixed models.

Of 299 consecutive patients from the MBR program, 229 could be contacted. Of these, 84 declined participation, five did not meet the inclusion criteria, and 26 had incomplete data. Thus, 114 patients were included. The mean follow-up time was 9.2 years. At T3, patients exhibited beneficial effects for NASS pain and disability with a moderate ES (ES = 0.63; p < 0.001). The NASS neurogenic symptoms scale was stable. The SF-36 scales showed an improvement in the bodily pain domain (ES = 1.02; p < 0.001), but no significant changes for physical functioning, physical role, general health, vitality, social functioning, emotional role, or mental health. The physical health component summary was improved (ES = 0.40, p = 0.002), and the mental health summary was unchanged. The linear mixed model analysis confirmed improvements in pain and disability between T1 and T3 (p = 0.010).

The results of this study suggest that there is a long-term benefit of MBR participation in patients with CLBP.

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