Evaluation of the STarT Back Screening Tool for Prediction of Low Back Pain Intensity in an Outpatient Physical Therapy Setting

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Prospective cohort study.


Optimal management of patients with low back pain (LBP) relies on accurate prognosis of future clinical outcomes. The STarT Back Screening Tool (SBT), a prognostic index developed and validated in the primary care setting, has 3 scoring measures: SBT overall, psychosocial, and categorical scores.


Our study aimed to compare the predictive validity of 3 SBT measures with future pain intensity in patients receiving physical therapy for LBP.


Two hundred seven patients with LBP receiving physical therapy completed the SBT at initial (baseline) evaluation and were evaluated 12 weeks later for their pain intensity. Multivariable proportional odds regression was used to evaluate the associations of the various SBT measures with pain intensity at follow-up.


Adjusting for covariates, all SBT measures were positively and significantly associated with the odds of greater pain intensity at follow-up evaluation (P<.01). Adding SBT psychosocial scores to a covariate-only model improved its predictive accuracy (concordance statistic increase, 0.03; 95% confidence interval: 0.01, 0.09), while improvements in prediction were smaller or negligible with the SBT overall and categorical scores (concordance statistic increase, 0.02 and 0.007, respectively). In mutually adjusted analyses, SBT psychosocial scores added incremental predictive value over SBT overall scores in predicting future pain intensity (P = .03).


Among the 3 SBT measures, the SBT psychosocial subscale was a significant predictor of future pain intensity in patients with LBP and had comparable, if not better, prognostic significance compared with the SBT overall score.


Prognosis, level 4.

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