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Carey, Timothy S.; Garrett, Joanne M.; Jackman, Anne M.; Sanders, Linda; & Kalsbeek, William D. (1995). Reporting of Acute Low Back Pain in a Telephone Interview: Identification of Potential Biases. Spine, 20(7), 787-790.


STUDY DESIGN: This was a survey of 235 individuals with and 132 individuals without documented low back pain.
OBJECTIVES: To approximate the magnitude of potential reporting biases in estimates of prevalence of and medical care use in low back pain.
SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA: The use of survey techniques presents several possible biases in the reporting of acute symptoms. These biases are especially pertinent in musculoskeletal symptoms, which often are recurrent and not life-threatening.
METHODS: Two-hundred-thirty-five patients with acute low back pain were contacted by telephone 4-16 months after their physician visit and surveyed regarding the presence and date of back pain episodes. One-hundred-thirty-two patients who had no functionally disabling back pain on physician interview were interviewed.
RESULTS: Of the patients who had sought care for back pain, 21% indicated they had not had back pain when interviewed 4-16 months later. Episodes of pain that occurred more than 8 months before the interview tended to be recalled as occurring more recently than they actually occurred, confirming "forward telescoping" of the illness episode. Only 3% of the individuals without functionally impairing pain reported such pain on a separate interview.
CONCLUSIONS: Lack of recall occurs regarding acute low back pain, usually a self-limited illness. This potential under-estimate of back pain prevalence may be balanced by forward telescoping of the date of illness occurrence.

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Journal Article

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Journal Title



Carey, Timothy S.
Garrett, Joanne M.
Jackman, Anne M.
Sanders, Linda
Kalsbeek, William D.