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Man Ther. 2012 Apr;17(2):119-25. doi: 10.1016/j.math.2011.10.002. Epub 2011 Nov 9.

Self-reported pain severity, quality of life, disability, anxiety and depression in patients classified with 'nociceptive', 'peripheral neuropathic' and 'central sensitisation' pain. The discriminant validity of mechanisms-based classifications of low back (±leg) pain.

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  • 1St Vincent's University Hospital, Elm Park, Dublin 4, Ireland.


Evidence of validity is required to support the use of mechanisms-based classifications of pain clinically. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the discriminant validity of 'nociceptive' (NP), 'peripheral neuropathic' (PNP) and 'central sensitisation' (CSP) as mechanisms-based classifications of pain in patients with low back (±leg) pain by evaluating the extent to which patients classified in this way differ from one another according to health measures associated with various dimensions of pain. This study employed a cross-sectional, between-subjects design. Four hundred and sixty-four patients with low back (±leg) pain were assessed using a standardised assessment protocol. Clinicians classified each patient's pain using a mechanisms-based classification approach. Patients completed a number of self-report measures associated with pain severity, health-related quality of life, functional disability, anxiety and depression. Discriminant validity was evaluated using a multivariate analysis of variance. There was a statistically significant difference between pain classifications on the combined self-report measures, (p = .001; Pillai's Trace = .33; partial eta squared = .16). Patients classified with CSP (n = 106) reported significantly more severe pain, poorer general health-related quality of life, and greater levels of back pain-related disability, depression and anxiety compared to those classified with PNP (n = 102) and NP (n = 256). A similar pattern was found in patients with PNP compared to NP. Mechanisms-based pain classifications may reflect meaningful differences in attributes underlying the multidimensionality of pain. Further studies are required to evaluate the construct and criterion validity of mechanisms-based classifications of musculoskeletal pain.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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