Objectives To: 1) investigate expectations about future problems related to musculoskeletal pain among a cohort of workers; 2) to investigate the association between expectations at baseline and musculoskeletal pain one year later; and 3) to explore influences on expectations.
Methods A longitudinal cohort postal survey collected data about musculoskeletal pain and expectations at baseline and one year later among a cohort of workers in New Zealand (n = 443). The postal survey was the New Zealand arm of the international CUPID (Cultural and Psychosocial Influences on Disability) study. Data were analysed descriptively and through multi-variable logistic regression. A qualitative study used in-depth interviews to explore influences on expectations among a subset of participants (n = 14) with musculoskeletal pain who had taken part in the postal surveys.
Results Participants thought their pain could ‘possibly,’ ‘probably’ or ‘definitely’ be a problem in twelve months time for a high proportion of musculoskeletal pain reported in the baseline postal survey (69–88% depending on the anatomical site). Those with poorer expectations were more likely to report musculoskeletal pain at the same anatomical site one year later. Multi-variable logistic regression showed that expectations at baseline were an independent factor associated with the persistence or recurrence of low back pain but not the other sites examined. Qualitative findings suggest that expectations are influenced by a range of factors including healthcare providers, the behaviour of symptoms and people’s observations of others.
Conclusions A high proportion of participants thought their musculoskeletal pain would be a problem in the future and indeed for many people it was. Expectations appear to be influenced by a range of factors.
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