The StarT back screening tool and a pain mannequin improve triage in individuals with low back pain at risk of a worse prognosis - A population based cohort study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: The STarT Back Screening Tool (SBT) identifies patients with low back pain (LBP) at risk of a worse prognosis of persistent disabling back pain, and thereby facilitates triage to appropriate treatment level. However, the SBT does not consider the pain distribution, which is a known predictor of chronic widespread pain (CWP). The aim of this study was to determine if screening by the SBT and screening of multisite chronic widespread pain (MS-CWP) could identity individuals with a worse prognosis. A secondary aim was to analyze self-reported health in individuals with and without LBP, in relation to the combination of these two screening tools. Methods: One hundred and nineteen individuals (aged 40-71 years, mean (SD) 59 (8) years), 52 with LBP and 67 references, answered two screening tools; the SBT and a pain mannequin - as well as a questionnaire addressing self-reported health. The SBT stratifies into low, medium or high risk of a worse prognosis. The pain mannequin stratifies into either presence or absence of CWP in combination with ≥7 painful areas of pain (0-18), here defined as MS-CWP (high risk of worse prognosis). The two screening tools were studied one-by-one, and as a combined screening. For statistical analyses, independent t-tests and Chi-square tests were used. Results: Both the SBT and the pain mannequin identified risk of a worse prognosis in individuals with (p = 0.007) or without (p = 0.001) LBP. We found that the screening tools identified partly different individuals at risk. The SBT identified one individual, while the pain mannequin identified 21 (19%). When combining the two screening methods, 21 individuals (17%) were at high risk of a worse prognosis. When analyzing differences between individuals at high risk (combined SBT and MS-CWP) with those at low risk, individuals at high risk reported worse health (p = 0.013 - < 0.001). Conclusions: Both screening tools identified individuals at risk, but they captured different aspects, and also different number of individuals at high risk of a worse prognosis. Thus, using a combination may improve early detection and facilitate triage to appropriate treatment level with multimodal approach also in those otherwise missed by the SBT.


External organisations
  • Halmstad University
  • Spenshult Research and Development Center
  • University of Southern Denmark
  • University of Gothenburg
  • Danish Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases (IRS)
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Rheumatology and Autoimmunity


  • Chronic widespread pain, Low back pain, Multisite pain, Population-based cohort, Prognostic indicators, Questionnaire
Original languageEnglish
Article number460
JournalBMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Oct 22
Publication categoryResearch