Contextual factors in persistent severe back pain: A longitudinal analysis among German employees

Julia-Marie Zimmer, David Fauser, André Golla, Matthias Bethge, Wilfried Mau


BACKGROUND: Chronic back pain in employees compromises participation in social and daily activities, as well as work.

OBJECTIVES: To examine the severity of back pain after 2 years and identify factors predicting stagnation at this level of pain.

METHODS: Data were derived from a prospective cohort study with randomized sampling of insurants in the German Pension Insurance using a questionnaire at baseline and follow-up after 2 years. The sample consisted of middle-aged employees (45-59 years) with strong limitations due to back pain (Chronic Pain Grade III or IV), who had not applied for disability pension and did not use medical rehabilitation in the previous 4 years before baseline. Stepwise multivariable logistic regression models with backwards selection were used to identify relevant contextual factors in the stagnation of severe back pain.

RESULTS: Of 1208 persons with severe back pain at baseline, 48% had stagnated at that pain level after 2 years. Predictors of persistent severe back pain were older age, poorer general health, more additional disabling conditions, more depressive symptoms, caregiving burden, less pain-related self-efficacy and more fear avoidance beliefs.

CONCLUSIONS: In a high-risk subgroup with several co-existing conditions, this analysis highlights (mental) health, social and personal (contextual) factors associated with long-term unfavourable back pain progression.

SIGNIFICANCE: Back pain is a condition that often has a chronic or recurrent course, threatening participation in many areas of life. In this study it was found that the unfavourable condition of severe back pain can remain stable for long periods of time in a significant proportion of sufferers. Contextual factors (self-efficacy, fear-avoidance beliefs, caregiving burden) as well as additional health problems should be considered when identifying persons with stagnating pain courses.

ZeitschriftEuropean journal of pain (London, England)
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 2023

Strategische Forschungsbereiche und Zentren

  • Profilbereich: Zentrum für Bevölkerungsmedizin und Versorgungsforschung (ZBV)


  • 205-02 Public Health, medizinische Versorgungsforschung, Sozialmedizin