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Rev Panam Salud Publica. 2002 Aug;12(2):86-94.

Predictors of compliance with short-term treatment among patients with back pain.

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State University of Campinas, School of Medical Sciences, Department of Nursing, Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil.



Great efforts have been made to find effective treatments for back pain. Nevertheless, the effectiveness of a particular treatment can depend on patient compliance. The objective of this study was to prospectively investigate whether patients' demographic factors, clinical factors, external barriers in following the treatment, and perceptions of disability, quality of life, depression, and control over health were predictive of compliance with a physical therapy program carried out with patients with low back pain.


This was an exploratory prospective cohort study that was carried out in New York City during 1999. All study participants answered a questionnaire at the initial clinical evaluation by a physical therapist and were followed during the treatment. The study assessed compliance with the three treatment regimens that were prescribed for every patient: attending scheduled physical therapy sessions, following a program of home exercises, and watching back-education videotapes. Depending on the individual patient, the planned treatment program could last from 2 to 6 weeks. The study employed a battery of instruments to measure patient characteristics that included perceived functional limitations, perceived quality of life, depression, and their beliefs about their health. Student's t tests and chi-square tests were used to determine if non- and low-compliant patients differed significantly from high-compliant patients. Logistic regression was used to estimate adjusted odds ratios expressing the association of selected variables with compliance.


We found that 51% of the patients were either noncompliant or low-compliant overall with the low back pain treatment program. There were differences in compliance behavior among the three treatment regimens, with compliance being highest for watching the back-education videotapes and lowest for doing the home exercises. Poor compliance overall was positively associated with the expectation of barriers in following the proposed treatment, with comorbidity, and with longer duration of treatment in this program.


The findings of our study indicate that patient compliance with back pain treatment is a serious and complex problem. Nevertheless, while this study was only an exploratory one, we believe that the results of this study can be used by care providers to identify patients likely to become noncompliant and also by researchers to plan specific studies on the effectiveness of treatment programs for patients with low back pain.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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