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Many Overrate Pre-Surgery Back Pain

Poor recall means spinal surgeries might not be as effective as thought

FRIDAY, Feb. 11, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- While many patients believe spinal surgeries do wonders in relieving their back pain, a new study suggests many may also overrate just how bad their pre-surgery pain was.

Researchers in Spain say patients who had spinal surgery for back pain years previously recalled their pre-surgery pain as far worse than what they actually reported at the time.

The study included 58 people who had lumbar fusion surgery for chronic low back pain. Before their surgery, the patients completed standard evaluations of back pain and related disability. Those ratings were compared with retrospective pain ratings made by the patients an average of three years after surgery.

In their retrospective ratings, the patients consistently rated their pre-surgery pain as worse than they did in their original pre-surgery questionnaires.

The researchers, from the Hospital Vall d'Hebron, Barcelona, said the findings suggest that studies relying on patients' post-surgery ratings of pre-surgery pain may overestimate the effectiveness of spinal surgery to relieve chronic back pain.

The findings were published in the current issue of Spine.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about low back pain.

SOURCE: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, news release, Jan. 31, 2005
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