In the Dutch Armed Forces (DAF), low back pain is the third most reported musculoskeletal disorder. For the prognosis of chronic low back pain (CLBP) only limited evidence is available. This observation results in a lack of clarity on prognostic factors that might affect recovery from CLBP in service members.The main objective is to identify general and military-related factors that are associated with the level of recovery in DAF service members with CLBP who followed a rehabilitation program.
One hundred five consecutive service members with CLBP who completed the rehabilitation program have been included in this prospective observational cohort study. The primary outcome measurement, level of disability, was used to distinguish a recovered and non-recovered group. Level of pain and self-perceived recovery were used as secondary outcome measurements. Disability and pain were measured at baseline and 12 weeks follow-up and self-perceived recovery only at follow-up. Differences were evaluated within and between the groups using the Student’s t-test, according to the normality of the data distribution. Bivariate logistic regression analyses were used for identifying the prognostic factors related to various outcomes of recovery.
After following the rehabilitation program, 64.8% of the service members recovered from CLBP. In the recovered group, there are significant effect sizes of -6.72 (CI: -7.57 - -5.87) in the level of disability and − 2.58 (CI: -3.17- -1.98) in level of pain, whereas the non-recovered group shows a non-significant effect size of -0.49 (CI: -1.27 - -0.29) in level of disability and a significant effect size of -0.94 (CI: -1.62 - -0.25) in level of pain. The self-perceived recovery in the recovered group is on average “much improved” and in the non-recovered group “slightly improved”. The results of the bivariate regression analyses show no significant independent prognostic factors related to recovery.
In this study, no significant independent prognostic factors could be identified that are associated to the various outcomes of recovery in service members with CLBP who followed a rehabilitation program.