Cultural influences on low back pain : extending the biopsychosocial model
The present investigation examined the influence of cultural factors on Low Back Pain (LBP). Multiple regression techniques were used to determine the relative importance of clinical, social and psychological factors to LBP disability and cultural influences on these factors were then explored. The findings indicated that compared to clinical and social factors, LBP disability was most strongly associated with psychological factors (adjusted R2 change = 0.38, p<0.00), the most important of which was psychological distress. Clinical (adjusted R2 change = 0.11, p<0.00) or social (adjusted R2 change = 0.02, p=0.09) factors were only moderately or weakly associated with LBP disability. A series of hierarchical regression models examined the mediating role of cognitive Coping Strategies (Catastrophising & Praying and Hoping (Rosenstiel and Keefe (1983)) and Pain Control Beliefs (Control of Pain & Responsibility for management of Pain (Main and Waddell (1991)) on the relationship between LBP disability and distress. In support of the Cognitive Behavioural Mediational Model of chronic pain (Rudy and Turk, 1987), evidence was found to suggest that the relationship between LBP disability and distress was largely dependent upon Coping Strategies and Pain Control Beliefs. The findings also suggested that Pain Control Beliefs were largely dependent upon Coping strategies, although these relationships varied between specific Pain Control Beliefs and Coping Strategies. The study found evidence to suggest that certain self report questionnaires which are commonly used to assess cognitive factors associated with LBP may not have robust cross cultural reliabilities as measured by Cronbach's Alpha (Cronbach 1951) (Praying and Hoping (P&H) subscale of the Coping Strategies Questionnaire (CSQ) Rosensteil and Keefe 1983; Pain Responsibility (PR) subscale of the Pain Locus of Control (PLC) Main and Waddell 1991). The findings indicated that when used in their present form, these self reported questionnaires may provide inconsistent results with South Asian, African-born or Muslim LBP patients. The study provided evidence for the role of Cultural factors (self defined Ethnicity, Country of Birth and reported Religious Affiliation) on the experience of LBP. Although the relationship between cultural factors and LBP was generally weak (R2 change < 0.15), it appeared that South Asian, African-born and Muslim patients experienced LBP significantly worse than other LBP patients. The cultural group differences were strongest for the "passive" coping strategy "Praying and Hoping" (Rosensteil and Keefe 1983) (R2 change = 0.15, p < 0.001). The most apparent cultural differences were for Muslim patients who compared with all other Religious groups consistently reported the worst experience of LBP. Muslim LBP patients were clinically more disabled than either Christian (mean Roland and Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ) difference (Roland and Morris, 1983) = 4.13) or other (mean RMDQ difference = 4.29) LBP patients. The statistical control of clinical variables in the regression models led to the conclusion that these groups of patients had a more "chronic" experience of LBP. Religious affiliation may help to identify LBP patients who present to secondary care with more chronic symptoms of LBP. Standardisation of self report questionnaire in these cultural groups may improve the precision of these findings. The present investigation was primarily descriptive in that reasons for cultural differences were not empirically examined. However the study findings suggest potentially fruitful areas for further investigation particularly that work on the meaning of "Praying" as a coping strategy and on its relationship with LBP disability for non-Christian groups would appear warranted.