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The Fear-Avoidance Model of Musculoskeletal Pain: Current State of Scientific Evidence

Research studies focusing on the fear-avoidance model have expanded considerably since the review by Vlaeyen and Linton (Vlaeyen J. W. S. & Linton, S. J. (2000). Fear-avoidance and its consequences in chronic musculoskeletal pain: a state of the art. Pain, 85(3), 317--332). The fear-avoidance model is a cognitive-behavioral account that explains why a minority of acute low back pain sufferers develop a chronic pain problem. This paper reviews the current state of scientific evidence for the individual components of the model: pain severity, pain catastrophizing, attention to pain, escape/avoidance behavior, disability, disuse, and vulnerabilities. Furthermore, support for the contribution of pain-related fear in the inception of low back pain, the development of chronic low back pain from an acute episode, and the maintenance of enduring pain, will be highlighted. Finally, available evidence on recent clinical applications is provided, and unresolved issues that need further exploration are discussed.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This study was supported by Grant nr. 1436.0002 of the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw).

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Leeuw, M., Goossens, M.E.J.B., Linton, S.J. et al. The Fear-Avoidance Model of Musculoskeletal Pain: Current State of Scientific Evidence. J Behav Med 30, 77–94 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-006-9085-0

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KEY WORDS

  • Fear avoidance model
  • low back pain
  • pain catastrophizing
  • disability
  • exposure in vivo