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Abstract

Background

Fear avoidance (FA) has been identified as a risk factor for poor prognosis and a target for intervention in patients with low back pain (LBP), but the mechanisms involved need clarification. Experimental studies would benefit from the use of carefully developed and controlled stimuli representing avoided movements in back pain, and matched stimuli of movements to provide a credible control stimuli. Existing stimuli depicting avoided movements in LBP are static, do not include a set of control stimuli and do not control for possible systematic observer biases.

Methods

Two studies were carried out aiming to develop and test LBP patients’ responses to videos of models depicting commonly avoided movements associated with back pain, and those associated with a control condition, wrist pain. Two samples of LBP patients rated how much pain and harm each movement would cause them. They also reported how often they avoided the movement.

Results

The findings from the first study (n = 99) indicate that using videos of commonly avoided movements in low back pain is viable, and that movements associated with wrist pain provide an acceptable control stimuli. Participants in the second study (n = 85) consistently rated movements depicted by females as causing more harm, and more frequently avoided than the same movements depicted by males.

Conclusions

The use of video stimuli could advance research into the processes associated with FA through experimental paradigms. However, although small, the model gender effects should be carefully considered.