The effect of fear of movement beliefs on pain and disability after surgery for lumbar and cervical degenerative conditions

Kristin R. Archer, Stephen T. Wegener, Caryn Seebach, Yanna Song, Richard L. Skolasky, Colleen Thornton, A. Jay Khanna, Lee H. Riley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Study Design. Prospective cohort study. Objective. To examine differences between preoperative and postoperative fear of movement and investigate the relationship between fear of movement and pain, disability and physical health after spinal surgery for degenerative conditions. Summary of Background Data. Consistent evidence supports the relationship between fear of movement and higher levels of pain and disability in various chronic pain populations. Fear of movement among patients undergoing spinal surgery for chronic pain has received little attention in the literature. Methods. Participants were 141 patients treated with surgery for lumbar and cervical degenerative conditions. Assessments were conducted before surgery and 6 weeks and 3 months after hospitalization. Fear of movement was measured with the Tampa Scale for Kinesiophobia and outcomes were measured with the Brief Pain Inventory, Oswestry or Neck Disability Index, and 12-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-12). Results. Follow-up rates were 91% and 87% for 6 weeks and 3 months, respectively. Fear of movement beliefs improved after surgery, but 49% of patients continued to have high fear of movement at 6-week follow-up and 39% at 3-month follow-up. Patients with higher levels of fear of movement had poorer postoperative outcomes. Multilevel linear regression analyses found that postoperative fear of movement was independently associated with postoperative pain intensity, pain interference, disability, and physical health (P < 0.001), after controlling for depression, age, sex, education, race, comorbidities, type and area of surgery, prior surgeries, and baseline outcome score. Preoperative fear of movement was not predictive of poorer surgical outcomes. Conclusion. Results demonstrate that postoperative but not preoperative fear of movement beliefs explain unique and significant variance in postoperative pain, disability, and physical health. Clinicians interested in improving surgical outcomes should address postoperative fear of movement along with other traditional clinical and medical risk factors. Recommendations include postoperative screening for high fear of movement beliefs and incorporating cognitive-behavioral techniques into postoperative rehabilitation for at-risk surgical spine patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1554-1562
Number of pages9
Issue number19
StatePublished - Sep 1 2011


  • cognitive-behavioral variables
  • degenerative disc disease
  • disability
  • fear of movement beliefs
  • kinesiophobia
  • surgical outcomes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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