Table 4:

Summary of recovery from low back pain

StudyInception timeRecovery rates
Bakker et al.10< 6 wk
  • 40% fully recovered by 12 wk and did not experience a recurrence within 6 mo

Bousema et al.114–7 wk
  • After 1 yr, 32% had no back pain complaints

Carey et al.13
Sundararajan et al.14
< 10 wk
  • 95% functionally recovered (a return to a functional status similar to that before the onset of low- back pain) by 6 mo

  • 69% considered themselves completely better at 6 mo

Carey1512–22 weeks
  • 33% had no functionally limiting symptoms after 18 mo

  • 16% had no back symptoms after 18 mo

Costa1612 weeks
  • Only 11% of patients had not returned to work in their previous capacity at the onset of chronicity and, of those 46%, had returned to work by 12 mo

  • The cumulative probability of being pain-free, maintained for one mon, was 35% at 9 mo and 42% at 12 mo after onset

  • The cumulative probability of having no disability, maintained for one mo, was 39% at 9 mo and 47% at 12 mo after onset

  • The cumulative probability of being completely recovered (pain-free, no disability and returned to prior work status maintained for one mo) was 35% at 9 mo and 41% at 12 mo after onset of chronic pain

Coste et al.17< 72 h
  • 90% (95%CI 84%–96%) of patients recovered within the first 2 wk

  • 98% (95%CI 95%–100%) of patients recovered after 3 mo

  • 40% of patients lost no time from work and return to work was slower than recovery from back pain

Coste et al.18< 72 h
  • 87% (95%CI 79%–95%) had recovered in 30 d

  • 95% (95%CI 91%–100%) had recovered in 3 mo

Epping-Jordan et al.19
Shaw et al.20
Wahlgren et al.21
Williams et al.22
6–10 wk
  • 54% improved by 6 mo

  • 67% improved by 12 mo

Ferguson et al.24,25<4 wk
  • 68% of patients were not impaired according to functional performance, and 80% were not impaired in terms of pain by 14 to 18 wk

Grotle et al.2,28< 3 wk
  • 76% had recovered (RMDQ < 4) after both 4 wk and 3 mo

  • 83% of patients had recovered fully from their disability after 1 yr (RMDQ < 4)

Gurcay et al.29< 3 wk
  • 27% recovered in the first wk

  • 31% recovered in the second wk

  • 23% recovered in the fourth wk

  • 10% recovered at the eighth wk

  • 1% recovered after 12 wk

  • 9% developed chronic low-back pain

Heneweer et al.33< 12 wk
  • 52% recovered in less than 4 wk

  • 55% recovered at 12 wk, of whom 76% did not report work absenteeism

Henschke et al.3> 24 h to < 2 wk
  • The cumulative probability of returning to work with pre–back pain work status and duties for those who reduced their work status at baseline because of low-back pain was 80% at 6 wk, 83% at 12 wk and 90% by 1 yr

  • The cumulative probability of having no disability was 55% at 6 wk, 73% by 12 wk and 83% by 1 yr

  • The cumulative probability of being pain free was 39% by 6 wk, 58% by 12 wk and 73% by 1 yr

  • The cumulative probability of being completely recovered was 39% by 6 wk, 57% by 12 wk and 72% by 1 y

Klenerman et al.34< 1 wk
  • 21% were classified as having no pain at 12 mo

  • 28% were classified as having no intermittent pain at 12 mo

  • 93% were classified as not having constant pain at 12 mo

Koleck et al.3510–90 d
  • 67% of patients were classified as improved after 1 yr

  • 67% were classified as not having chronic low-back pain after 1 yr

Melloh et al.38< 12 wk
  • 75% were classified as nonpersistent low-back pain at 6 wk

  • 25% were classified as persistent low-back pain at 6 wk

Poiraudeau et al.394–12 wk
  • 60% did not have persistent low-back pain at 3 mo

  • 59% did not use sick leave during the 3 mo period

  • 83% had returned to work at 3 mo

Schiottz-Christensen et al.41< 14 d
  • 84% (95%CI 80%– 87%) of patients functionally recovered at 6 mo

  • 92% (95%CI 89%–94%) functionally recovered at 12 mo

  • 47% of patients completely recovered at 6 and 12 mo

Valat et al.50< 1 wk
  • 61.3% had fully recovered at 7 wk

  • Note: CI = confidence interval, RMDQ = Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire.