The prevalence of fear avoidance and pain catastrophising in patients with chronic neck pain attending private physiotherapy in Johannesburg
Background: The cognitive elements of fear avoidance and pain catastrophising in individuals suffering from chronic pain, including chronic low back pain and chronic musculoskeletal conditions, have been found to be significant impediments to recovery. However, little is known about the influence of fear avoidance and pain catastrophising on chronic non-specific neck pain, especially in the context of a South African population. The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of fear avoidance and pain catastrophising in patients suffering from chronic neck pain of three or more months’ duration who were attending physiotherapy in private clinics in Johannesburg, South Africa. The objectives of this study were to establish the prevalence of fear avoidance, the prevalence of pain catastrophising, and to establish the association between demographic variables and fear avoidance and pain catastrophising respectively. Methods: In order to fulfil the objectives, a cross-sectional design was used on the basis of the validated Tampa Scale for Kinesiophobia-11 (TSK-11) and the Pain Catastrophising Scale (PCS) questionnaires to determine the prevalence of fear avoidance and pain catastrophising respectively in patients suffering with chronic neck pain. The patients were sampled sequentially from randomly selected private practices in Johannesburg, South Africa, with the particular focus being on musculoskeletal conditions. The demographic data included gender, age, pain intensity, marital status, highest level of education attained, employment status, duration of neck pain, and whether or not the participant had had to reduce his/her work load as a result of the pain experienced. These factors were tested in terms of their association between fear avoidance and pain catastrophising respectively, and of the association between fear avoidance and pain catastrophising itself. A total of 106 participants were interviewed. The data from the questionnaires and the demographic questionnaires were analysed using Statistica, version 12. The results were considered significant when p-values of 0.05 were attained. Results: A total of 106 participants with a mean age of 48.7 years (SD=14.8; range 20-80 years) were drawn sequentially from a randomly selected total of 25 private practices. Female participants constituted 81.1% (n=86) of the total participants and 76.4% had some form of tertiary education. The majority (76.4%) were working and most (79.2%) had not reduced their work load as a result of their pain. Many participants were in a relationship (67.9%) and the pain intensity showed a mean of 4.4 on the VAS (SD=2.2; range 0.3-8.7), with the median pain duration being 96 months (8 years) (IQR=30-180 months) (2.5-15 years); range 3-756 months (0.25-63 years)). The TSK-11–Total showed a mean score of 22.9 and 25.5% of the participants (n=106) presented with significant fear avoidance measured on theTSK-11-Total scale. The prevalence was based on a cut-off equivalent to the midpoint scale. The median score for the PCS-Total was 12. The prevalence of clinically relevant scores for the PCS-Total was 15.1% (n=106) of the population studied, based on a cut-off score of =30. There was a significant, positive correlation between the TSK-Total and the PCS-Total and its subscales; and between the TSK-SF and the PCS-Total and its subscales. Significant association was found between the highest level of education and the TSK-11-Total score. The mean TSK-11 score for those with secondary education (26.0 ± 3.4) was higher than that for patients with a tertiary education (21.9 ± 1.5), indicating that those with a secondary education were more likely to be fear avoidant than those with a tertiary education. There was a significant, positive correlation between pain intensity and the TSK-Total score, and a significant positive correlation between pain intensity and the PCS-Total score. No significant association was found for fear avoidance and pain catastrophising in respect of any of the other demographic variables. Conclusion: This prevalence study established that of the sample of adults attending physiotherapy for chronic non-specific neck pain, 25.5% suffer from fear avoidance and 15.1% suffer from pain catastrophising. An association was found between the total scores for fear avoidance and pain catastrophising. Furthermore, an association was also found between fear avoidance and its subscale, somatic focus, and between pain catastrophising and all its subscales, namely rumination, magnification and helplessness. Yet another positive association was found between secondary education and fear avoidance, and a positive correlation between pain intensity and both fear avoidance and pain catastrophising respectively.
A Research Report submitted to the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Master of Science in Physiotherapy Johannesburg, 2017