What is the prognosis of mechanical low back pain?

Updated: Mar 06, 2018
  • Author: Everett C Hills, MD, MS; Chief Editor: Stephen Kishner, MD, MHA  more...
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  • The prognosis is good for recovery from mechanical low back pain (LBP). At 1 month, 35% of patients can be expected to recover; at 3 months, 85% have recovered; and at 6 months, 95% have recovered.

  • Failure of a patient to recover should lead the clinician into a more thorough and extensive search into the cause of the back pain, including the possibility of recurrent back injuries.

  • Recurrence at 1 year is 62%. At 2 years, 80% of patients have had 1 or more recurrences. The question remains whether this is the inevitable result of natural aging, continued pathologic processes, somatization, or a combination of all of these. Clearly, much more research is required.

  • A prospective cohort study by Mehling et al reviewed outcome measures for recovery in primary-care patients with recent-onset acute LBP. Since a consensus does not exist about outcome definitions or how to identify when patients have failed to recover from an episode of LBP, the authors suggest that a combination of ratings from perceived recovery scales along with pain and disability measures be used as a highly accurate way to identify recovery. [39]

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