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Low back pain is a major health and economical problem among populations in western industrialized countries. Chronic low back pain, in particular, is a major cause of medical expenses, absenteeism and disablement (Van Tulder, Koes & Bombardier 2002). It has long been thought that pain and disability are not only influenced by somatic pathology, if found, but also by psychological and psychosocial factors. A number of studies have explored the relationship between emotional factors and back pain (comorbid depression; emotional coping; anger and anxiety; and alexithymia). Research findings have suggested that emotional difficulties may be important and may contribute to a slower recovery in chronic back pain patients (Julkunen Hurri & Kankainen 1988).
Toexamine the role of psychological factors in chronic back pain the Emotional Processing Scale is being administered to two groups of back pain patients in which there is high and low likelihood of psychogenic involvement, respectively: namely, those with a diagnosis of chronic back pain (CBP) and those with a diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis (AS). For comparison there is also a non patient control group. It is hypothesised that the CBP group will show greater emotional processing deficits (such as poor awareness of emotions and an inability to label emotions) than the AS group.