Researchers have examined the patterns of back pain over time and patient characteristics in relation to the disability.
In addition, they have identified the extent of healthcare and medication use (including opioids) associated with different patterns.
Back pain is among the most frequently reported health problems in the world.
For the study, researchers from the University Health Network’s Krembil Research Institute in Toronto, Canada studied 12,782 participants for 16 years.
They provided data on factors including comorbidities, pain, disability, opioid and other medication use, and healthcare visits.
The results showed that almost half (45.6 per cent) of the participants reported back pain at least once.
The study included four groups of pain: persistent (18 per cent), developing (28.1 per cent), recovery (20.5 per cent), and occasional (33.4 per cent).
The findings, published in Arthritis Care and Research, showed that the persistent and developing groups tended to have more pain and disability, as well as more healthcare visits and medication use than those in the recovery and occasional trajectory groups.
In addition, the recovery trajectory group increased the use of opioids and antidepressants over time.
“The good news is that one in five people with back pain recovered. However, they continued to use opioids and antidepressants, suggesting that people recovering from back pain need ongoing monitoring,” said lead author Mayilee Canizares, postdoctoral candidate from the varsity.
The bad news is that one in five experienced persistent back pain, said Canizares.
People with back pain are a heterogeneous group that may benefit from different approaches to management rather than a traditional one size fits all approach. The distinct groups identified in the study may represent opportunities for more individualised treatment and preventative strategies, Canizares noted.