OBJECTIVES: To determine why some people develop chronic low back pain, and whether illness perceptions are an important risk factor in the transition from acute to chronic low back pain. DESIGN: Cross-sectional study. PARTICIPANTS: Four hundred and two members of the general Dutch population, with and without chronic low back pain. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Sociodemographics and the translated version of the illness perception questionnaire-revised, adapted for back pain. RESULTS: Of the sample, 115 (29%) individuals had chronic low back pain (>6 months) and 287 (71%) did not have chronic low back pain. Many of the participants with chronic low back pain believed that one 'wrong' movement can potentially lead to more severe problems, and that X-rays or computer tomography scans can determine the cause of the pain. Many of the participants with chronic low back pain did not perceive a relationship between psychosocial factors and low back pain. CONCLUSIONS: Illness perceptions differed between individuals with and without chronic low back pain. In the subacute phase, healthcare professionals could assess illness perceptions and, if necessary, incorporate them into the management of patients with low back pain.
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