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Does a patient’s physical activity predict recovery from an episode of acute low back pain?: a prospective cohort study

Hendrick, Paul; Milosavljevic, Stephan; Hale, Leigh; Hurley, Deirdre A.; McDonough, Suzanne M.; Herbison, Peter; Baxter, G. David

Does a patient’s physical activity predict recovery from an episode of acute low back pain?: a prospective cohort study Thumbnail


Paul Hendrick

Stephan Milosavljevic

Leigh Hale

Deirdre A. Hurley

Suzanne M. McDonough

Peter Herbison

G. David Baxter


Advice to remain active and normalisation of activity are commonly prescribed in the management of low back pain (LBP). However, no research has assessed whether objective measurements of physical activity predict outcome and recovery in acute low back pain.

The aims of this study were to assess the predictive relationship between activity and disability at 3 months in a sub-acute LBP population. This prospective cohort study recruited 101 consenting patients with sub-acute LBP (< 6 weeks) who completed the Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ), the Visual Analogue Scale, and resumption of full ‘normal’ activity question (Y/N), at baseline and 3 months. Physical activity was measured for 7 days at both baseline and at 3 months with an RT3 accelerometer and a recall questionnaire.

Observed and self-reported measures of physical activity at baseline and change in activity from baseline to 3 months were not independent predictors of RMDQ (p > 0.05) or RMDQ change (p > 0.05) over 3 months. A self-report of a return to full ‘normal’ activities was significantly associated with greater RMDQ change score at 3 months (p < 0.001). Paired t-tests found no significant change in activity levels measured with the RT3 (p = 0.57) or the recall questionnaire (p = 0.38) from baseline to 3 months.

These results question the predictive role of physical activity in LBP recovery, and the assumption that activity levels change as LBP symptoms resolve. The importance of a patient’s perception of activity limitation in recovery from acute LBP was also highlighted.

Trial registration
Clinical Trial Registration Number, ACTRN12609000282280

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Apr 5, 2013
Deposit Date Apr 8, 2014
Publicly Available Date Apr 8, 2014
Journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Electronic ISSN 1471-2474
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 14
Issue April
Article Number 11
Keywords Physical activity, Acute low back pain, Recovery, Predictor, Cohort
Public URL
Publisher URL


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