Subclassification of low back pain: a cross-country comparison


Various health professionals have attempted to classify low back pain (LBP) subgroups and have developed several LBP classification systems. Knowing that culture has an effect on LBP symptomatology, assessment findings and clinical decision making, the aim of this review is to perform a cross-country comparative review amongst the published classification systems, addressing each country’s similarities and differences as well as exploring whether cultural factors have been incorporated into the subclassification process. A systematic search of databases limited to human adults was undertaken by Medline, Cinahl, AMED and PEDro databases between January 1980 and October 2005. Classification systems from nine countries were identified. Most studies were classified according to pathoanatomic and/or clinical features, whereas fewer studies utilized a psychosocial and even less, a biopsychosocial approach. Most studies were limited in use to the country of the system’s developer. Very few studies addressed cultural issues, highlighting the lack of information on the impact of specific cultural factors on LBP classification procedures. However, there seem to be certain ‘cultural trends’ in classification systems within each country, which are discussed. Despite the plethora of classification studies, there is still no system which is internationally established, effective, reliable and valid. Future research should aim to develop a LBP classification system within a well identified cultural setting, addressing the multi-dimensional features of the LBP presentation.

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Billis, E.V., McCarthy, C.J. & Oldham, J.A. Subclassification of low back pain: a cross-country comparison. Eur Spine J 16, 865–879 (2007) doi:10.1007/s00586-007-0313-2

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  • Classification
  • Low back pain
  • Cross-country comparison
  • Cross-cultural
  • Culture