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      Stress and Self-Efficacy as Long-Term Predictors for Chronic Low Back Pain: A Prospective Longitudinal Study

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          Psychosocial variables are known risk factors for the development and chronification of low back pain (LBP). Psychosocial stress is one of these risk factors. Therefore, this study aims to identify the most important types of stress predicting LBP. Self-efficacy was included as a potential protective factor related to both, stress and pain.

          Participants and Methods

          This prospective observational study assessed n = 1071 subjects with low back pain over 2 years. Psychosocial stress was evaluated in a broad manner using instruments assessing perceived stress, stress experiences in work and social contexts, vital exhaustion and life-event stress. Further, self-efficacy and pain (characteristic pain intensity and disability) were assessed. Using least absolute shrinkage selection operator regression, important predictors of characteristic pain intensity and pain-related disability at 1-year and 2-years follow-up were analyzed.


          The final sample for the statistic procedure consisted of 588 subjects (age: 39.2 (±13.4) years; baseline pain intensity: 27.8 (±18.4); disability: 14.3 (±17.9)). In the 1-year follow-up, the stress types “tendency to worry”, “social isolation”, “work discontent” as well as vital exhaustion and negative life events were identified as risk factors for both pain intensity and pain-related disability. Within the 2-years follow-up, Lasso models identified the stress types “tendency to worry”, “social isolation”, “social conflicts”, and “perceived long-term stress” as potential risk factors for both pain intensity and disability. Furthermore, “self-efficacy” (“internality”, “self-concept”) and “social externality” play a role in reducing pain-related disability.


          Stress experiences in social and work-related contexts were identified as important risk factors for LBP 1 or 2 years in the future, even in subjects with low initial pain levels. Self-efficacy turned out to be a protective factor for pain development, especially in the long-term follow-up. Results suggest a differentiation of stress types in addressing psychosocial factors in research, prevention and therapy approaches.

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          Most cited references 33

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          The Darwinian concept of stress: benefits of allostasis and costs of allostatic load and the trade-offs in health and disease.

          Why do we get the stress-related diseases we do? Why do some people have flare ups of autoimmune disease, whereas others suffer from melancholic depression during a stressful period in their life? In the present review possible explanations will be given by using different levels of analysis. First, we explain in evolutionary terms why different organisms adopt different behavioral strategies to cope with stress. It has become clear that natural selection maintains a balance of different traits preserving genes for high aggression (Hawks) and low aggression (Doves) within a population. The existence of these personality types (Hawks-Doves) is widespread in the animal kingdom, not only between males and females but also within the same gender across species. Second, proximate (causal) explanations are given for the different stress responses and how they work. Hawks and Doves differ in underlying physiology and these differences are associated with their respective behavioral strategies; for example, bold Hawks preferentially adopt the fight-flight response when establishing a new territory or defending an existing territory, while cautious Doves show the freeze-hide response to adapt to threats in their environment. Thus, adaptive processes that actively maintain stability through change (allostasis) depend on the personality type and the associated stress responses. Third, we describe how the expression of the various stress responses can result in specific benefits to the organism. Fourth, we discuss how the benefits of allostasis and the costs of adaptation (allostatic load) lead to different trade-offs in health and disease, thereby reinforcing a Darwinian concept of stress. Collectively, this provides some explanation of why individuals may differ in their vulnerability to different stress-related diseases and how this relates to the range of personality types, especially aggressive Hawks and non-aggressive Doves in a population. A conceptual framework is presented showing that Hawks, due to inefficient management of mediators of allostasis, are more likely to be violent, to develop impulse control disorders, hypertension, cardiac arrhythmias, sudden death, atypical depression, chronic fatigue states and inflammation. In contrast, Doves, due to the greater release of mediators of allostasis (surplus), are more susceptible to anxiety disorders, metabolic syndromes, melancholic depression, psychotic states and infection.
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            A new view on hypocortisolism.

            Low cortisol levels have been observed in patients with different stress-related disorders such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Data suggest that these disorders are characterized by a symptom triad of enhanced stress sensitivity, pain, and fatigue. This overview will present data on the development, mechanisms and consequences of hypocortisolism on different bodily systems. We propose that the phenomenon of hypocortisolism may occur after a prolonged period of hyperactivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis due to chronic stress as illustrated in an animal model. Further evidence suggests that despite symptoms such as pain, fatigue and high stress sensitivity, hypocortisolism may also have beneficial effects on the organism. This assumption will be underlined by some studies suggesting protective effects of hypocortisolism for the individual.
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              Confidence intervals for low dimensional parameters in high dimensional linear models


                Author and article information

                J Pain Res
                J Pain Res
                Journal of Pain Research
                24 March 2020
                : 13
                : 613-621
                [1 ]Sociology of Health and Physical Activity, University of Potsdam , Potsdam, Germany
                [2 ]Statistical Consulting Unit, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich , Munich, Germany
                [3 ]University Center of Orthopedics and Surgery, University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus, Technical University Dresden , Dresden, Germany
                [4 ]Department of Training and Movement Sciences, Humboldt-University of Berlin , Berlin, Germany
                [5 ]Conservative Orthopaedics and Pain Management, Center of Orthopaedics and Trauma Surgery, University Hospital Heidelberg , Heidelberg, Germany
                [6 ]University Outpatient Clinic, University of Potsdam , Potsdam, Germany
                [7 ]Department of Health Sciences and Technology, ETH Zürich , Zürich, Switzerland
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Anne-Katrin Puschmann University of Potsdam , Am Neuen Palais 10, House 12, Potsdam14469, GermanyTel +49 331 9771075 Email ak.puschmann@gmail.com
                © 2020 Puschmann et al.

                This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited. The full terms of this license are available at https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/). By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed. For permission for commercial use of this work, please see paragraphs 4.2 and 5 of our Terms ( https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php).

                Page count
                Tables: 2, References: 53, Pages: 9
                The present study was funded by the German Federal Institute of Sport Science on behalf of the Federal Ministry of the Interior of Germany. It was realized within MiSpEx – the National Research Network for Medicine in Spine Exercise (grant number: 080102A/11-14). All sources of funding for the research reported are declared. The funder did not influence data collection, analysis, interpretation, or writing of the manuscript.
                Original Research


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