One hundred patients undergoing intensive rehabilitation for painful spinal lesions were studied. They were divided into three groups in relation to result, these being ‘good’, ‘moderate’ or ‘poor’. Seventy-eight per cent were regarded as ‘good’ or ‘moderate’. The ‘poor’ group showed significantly raised neuroticism scores measured by the Middlesex Hospital Questionnaire, particularly sub-scores for ‘depression’ and ‘somatic concomitants of anxiety’ in women and ‘free floating anxiety’, ‘depression’ and ‘obsessionality’ in men. Other factors associated with poor outcome were long history, multiple operations and a nonspecific diagnosis of ‘low back pain’. It is suggested that this group can be identified early and might benefit from a combined physical rehabilitation and psychotherapy programme. A controlled study to test this is planned.
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