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The influence of significant others on back pain disability and return-to-work: a qualitative pilot study of illness perceptions

By Serena McCluskey, A. Kim Burton, Joanna Brooks and Nigel King


Background\ud Illness perceptions have been acknowledged as important influences in the course of, and recovery from, back pain. However, an in-depth exploration of the influence of illness perceptions, particularly those of ‘significant others’, on back pain incapacity has yet to be carried out.\ud Objectives\ud The aims of this pilot study are: (1) to design and validate a semi-structured interview for incapacity benefit claimants and their ‘significant others’ to explore their illness perceptions in relation to the claimant’s back condition and work function; (2) to compare the beliefs of claimants and their significant others with a view to designing a large-scale mixed-methods research project exploring the impact of significant others’ beliefs on claimants’ own beliefs about their disability and work function.\ud Method\ud Interviews will be carried out with a convenience sample of claimants (and their ‘significant others’) who are enrolled in the Lancashire Condition Management Programme. Data will be analysed using qualitative techniques, and themes will be extracted and explored in relation to disability and work function, and compared between claimants and their ‘significant others’.\ud Outcomes\ud The influence of ‘significant others’ on back pain disability is largely unexplored. This pilot study aims to provide a method which will enable further understanding of these influences, with the aim of informing future research and return-to-work programs.\ud Lay summary\ud Most people who are in receipt of incapacity benefit are now expected to take appropriate steps to prepare for work. However, there is little understanding of the individual and social influences involved in the everyday life experiences of those with disabling back pain which may act as obstacles to recovery, and\ud ultimately, a return-to-work. We are proposing to design and validate a method which will allow a more indepth examination of the illness perceptions of both individuals who are disabled due to back pain, and those of their ‘significant others’ (spouses/close family members). The findings from this study will provide a useful insight into the beliefs, perceptions and social circumstances that influence chronic back pain, and could meaningfully inform future treatment plans and intervention programmes aimed at restoring work function

Topics: H1, BF, RA0421
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  1. et al (2010). Distinctiveness of psychological obstacles to recovery in low back pain patients in primary care. doi
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