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Pain, Disability, and Psychological Functioning in Chronic Low Back Pain Subgroups: Myofascial versus Herniated Disc Syndrome

Cassisi, Jeffrey E. Ph.D.; Sypert, George W. M.D.; Laganá, Luciana Ph.D.; Friedman, Elizabeth M. B.A.; Robinson, Michael E. Ph.D.

Clinical Study

A SERIES OF patients with chronic low back pain evaluated at a tertiary referral center were the subjects for this study. Of 250 consecutive patients, 94 were diagnosed as having myofascial pain and 57 as having herniated disc syndrome. Before evaluation and diagnosis, all patients completed the McGill Pain Questionnaire, ratings of pain and disability, and the Symptom Checklist 90-R. Patients were also grouped on the basis of previous surgical history and workers' compensation benefits. Patients suffering from myofascial pain were significantly less likely to report periods of pain relief than patients with herniated disc syndrome. Those receiving workers' compensation benefits reported significantly greater levels of pain, disability, and psychological distress than those not receiving benefits, irrespective of diagnosis. Patients who underwent previous surgery did not differ significantly from those who never underwent surgery. All patients had elevated scores on the Somatization subscale of the Symptom Checklist 90-R. Patients with myofascial pain and workers' compensation benefits demonstrated the highest levels of somatization and phobia. These findings suggest that the effects of low back pain of myofascial origin have comparable, if not worse, consequences than disc herniation. These findings also reaffirm the importance of workers' compensation in understanding the differences in patients with chronic low back pain.

Department of Psychology, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, Illinois (JEC, LL, EMF); Southwest Florida Neurosurgical Associates, Ft. Myers, Florida (GWS); Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida (MER)

Reprint requests: Dr. Jeffrey E. Cassisi, Department of Psychology, Illinois Institute of Technology, IIT Center, Chicago, IL 60616.

Received, August 31, 1992. Accepted, April 6, 1993.

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