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Chronic physical illnesses, mental health disorders, and psychological features as potential risk factors for back pain from childhood to young adulthood: a systematic review with meta-analysis

Abstract

Purpose

To report evidence of chronic physical illnesses, mental health disorders, and psychological features as potential risk factors for back pain in children, adolescents, and young adults.

Methods

This systematic review and meta-analysis included cohort and inception cohort studies that investigated potential risk factors for back pain in young people. Potential risk factors of interest were chronic physical illnesses, mental health disorders (e.g. depression, anxiety), and other psychological features (e.g. coping, resistance). Searches were conducted in MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, and Scopus from inception to July 2019.

Results

Nineteen of 2167 screened articles were included in the qualitative synthesis, and data from 12 articles were included in the meta-analysis. Evidence from inception cohort studies demonstrated psychological distress, emotional coping problems, and somatosensory amplification to be likely risk factors for back pain. Evidence from non-inception cohort studies cannot distinguish between risk factors or back pain triggers. However, we identified several additional factors that were associated with back pain. Specifically, asthma, headaches, abdominal pain, depression, anxiety, conduct problems, somatization, and ‘feeling tense’ are potential risk factors or triggers for back pain. Results from the meta-analyses demonstrated the most likely risk factors for back pain in young people are psychological distress and emotional coping problems.

Conclusion

Psychological features are the most likely risk factors for back pain in young people. Several other factors were associated with back pain, but their potential as risk factors was unclear due to risk of bias. Additional high-quality research is needed to better elucidate these relationships.

Graphic abstract

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Data availability

The data sets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Abbreviations

QUIPS:

Quality In Prognostic Studies tool

OR:

Odds ratio

RR:

Risk ratio

CI:

Confidence intervals

N :

Number of participants

SD:

Standard deviation

NR:

Not reported

NA:

Not applicable

BP:

Back pain

LBP:

Low back pain

MBP:

Mid-back pain

β :

Beta

BMI:

Body mass index

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Cody Davenport for his assistance with the study screening process.

Funding

This study was funded by a scholarship from Murdoch University, Western Australia and funding provided by Chiropractic Australia Research Foundation. JH receives salary support from the Canadian Chiropractic Research Foundation and the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation. The funding sources had no involvement in study design, analysis, interpretation, or manuscript preparation.

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Authors

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AB, JH, and BW were involved with the concept and design of the study. LB conducted the searches. AB and CH conducted study selection and data extraction. AB analysed and interpreted the data with the assistance of BW, JH, and CH. AB drafted the manuscript and performed revisions with substantial feedback and editing from all authors. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Amber M. Beynon.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Beynon, A.M., Hebert, J.J., Hodgetts, C.J. et al. Chronic physical illnesses, mental health disorders, and psychological features as potential risk factors for back pain from childhood to young adulthood: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Eur Spine J 29, 480–496 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00586-019-06278-6

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Keywords

  • Back pain
  • Systematic review
  • Meta-analysis
  • Risk factors
  • Children
  • Young adult