Acceptance in chronic neck pain: associations with disability and fear avoidance beliefs.

Chronic neck pain can result in significant levels of disability. Physiotherapy treatments often aim to modify cognitive factors and this approach benefits some, but not all, patients. Research from other pain conditions suggests that acceptance may be related to disability; however, it is unclear whether these associations exist in patients with neck pain. Moreover, it is unclear to what extent other cognitive factors are related to acceptance. Feasibly, if these factors are related, existing treatments may already be indirectly modifying acceptance. The aim of this study was therefore to establish the associations between acceptance and disability, and between acceptance and other cognitive factors.

Cross-sectional data were collected from 149 patients and regression analyses were carried out. In the first analysis, disability was the dependent variable and the proportion of variance explained by two acceptance subscales (activities engagement and pain willingness) was calculated. In the second analyses, the acceptance subscales were the dependent variables. Measures of pain-related fear, catastrophizing and pain vigilance and awareness were entered as explanatory variables and the proportion of variance explained was calculated.

In the first analysis, acceptance explained 18% of variance in disability (P<0.001). In the second analysis, cognitive factors explained 7% (P<0.05) of variance in activities engagement and 58% (P<0.001) of pain willingness. On this basis, treatments that enhance acceptance may reduce disability. Moreover, as cognitive factors were strongly related to pain willingness, but not activity engagement, alternative treatments may be required to maximize acceptance. Further studies are warranted to assess acceptance-based treatments in patients with neck pain.