The Association of Illness Perception and Prognosis for Pain and Physical Function in Patients With Noncancer Musculoskeletal Pain: A Systematic Literature Review

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Abstract

BACKGROUND:

In the literature, illness perceptions have been reported to be important psychological factors associated with pain intensity and physical function in individuals with musculoskeletal pain.

OBJECTIVE:

To assess the relationship of illness perceptions with pain intensity and physical function in individuals with noncancer musculoskeletal pain.

METHODS:

In this systematic review, relevant literature databases, including PubMed, Embase, PsycINFO, CINAHL, and SPORTDiscus, were searched from inception through December 12, 2017. Two authors (E.D.R. and H.W.) independently performed the search procedures, according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses and the A MeaSurement Tool to Assess systematic Reviews guidelines, and the risk-of-bias assessment, using the QUality In Prognosis Studies tool. A qualitative best-evidence synthesis was performed.

RESULTS:

A total of 26 articles were included in the review. There were 11 cross-sectional studies concerning associations of illness perceptions with pain intensity and 11 cross-sectional studies of associations of illness perceptions with physical function. For the prognosis of pain intensity by illness perceptions, the authors found 4 longitudinal studies, and for the prognosis of physical function by illness perceptions, the authors found 12 longitudinal studies. All studies except 1 had high risk of bias. Across 15 cross-sectional studies on 9 different musculoskeletal conditions, the researchers found limited to moderate evidence for a consistent direction of the relationship of illness perceptions with pain intensity and physical function. Higher maladaptive illness perceptions imply stronger pain intensity and more limitation in physical function. Evidence in longitudinal studies is lacking, especially on pain.

CONCLUSION:

There is limited to moderate evidence for the cross-sectional relationship between illness perceptions and various musculoskeletal conditions. The prognostic value, however, remains unclear. Future research is recommended to investigate the longitudinal relationship between illness perception domains and outcomes in greater detail.

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