Objective. The objectives of this study were to investigate the associations of key constructs of relationship quality (cohesion, consensus, and satisfaction) and perceived partner responses to pain behavior (e.g., solicitous and negative responses) with the outcomes of pain and disability in those with long-term low back pain, and to explore the role of the patient's depressive symptom mood state on those associations.
Methods. Self-report questionnaires on pain intensity, disability, relationship quality, perceived partner reactions to pain, and depressive symptoms were collected from participants (N = 174) taking part in a longitudinal study on low back pain within a primary care sample.
Results. Participants reporting more consensus (e.g., agreement about sexual intimacy, level of affection) in their relationships had significantly higher pain intensity (P = 0.03), and solicitous partner responses (P = 0.04) were significantly positively associated with disability levels. However, the findings for pain intensity were only present in those with higher levels of depression, while the association of solicitous responses with disability was only significant in those with lower levels of depression, indicating a suppression effect of depression on pain and disability.
Conclusions. Depressive symptoms play a significant role in determining the associations between relationship quality, perceived partner reactions, and pain and disability. The relationship construct of consensus and perceived solicitous responses were associated with pain and disability. These findings illustrate the importance of social context and patient mood state on the outcomes for those with low back pain.