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Exploring the complexity of commonly held attitudes and beliefs of low back pain—a network analysis

  • Liew, Bernard X. W.1
  • Darlow, Ben2
  • 1 School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences, University of Essex, Colchester , (United Kingdom)
  • 2 Department of Primary Healthcare and General Practice, University of Otago, Wellington , (New Zealand)
Published Article
Frontiers in Medicine
Frontiers Media SA
Publication Date
Jan 24, 2024
DOI: 10.3389/fmed.2024.1327791
  • Medicine
  • Original Research


Objectives The current study used a network analysis approach to explore the complexity of attitudes and beliefs held in people with and without low back pain (LBP). The study aimed to (1) quantify the adjusted associations between individual items of the Back Pain Attitudes Questionnaire (Back-PAQ), and (2) identify the items with the strongest connectivity within the network. Methods This is a secondary data analysis of a previously published survey using the Back-PAQ (n = 602). A nonparametric Spearman’s rank correlation matrix was used as input to the network analysis. We estimated an unregularised graphical Gaussian model (GGM). Edges were added or removed in a stepwise manner until the extended Bayesian information criterion (EBIC) did not improve. We assessed three measures of centrality measures of betweenness, closeness, and strength. Results The two pairwise associations with the greatest magnitude of correlation were between Q30–Q31 [0.54 (95% CI 0.44 to 0.60)] and Q15–Q16 [0.52 (95% CI 0.43 to 0.61)]. These two relationships related to the association between items exploring the influence of attentional focus and expectations (Q30–Q31), and feelings and stress (Q15–Q16). The three items with the greatest average centrality values, were Q22, Q25, and Q10. These items reflect beliefs about damaging the back, exercise, and activity avoidance, respectively. Conclusion Beliefs about back damage, exercise, and activity avoidance are factors most connected to all other beliefs within the network. These three factors may represent candidate targets that clinicians can focus their counseling efforts on to manage unhelpful attitudes and beliefs in people experiencing LBP.

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