Are patients with chronic low back pain or chronic neck pain fatigued?

David A. Fishbain, R. B. Cutler, Brandly Cole, J. Lewis, E. Smets, H. L. Rosomoff, R. Steele Rosomoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Objectives. The objectives of this study were the following: to determine if fatigue is present in chronic low back pain (LBP) and chronic neck pain patients to a greater extent than in controls (nonpatients); to determine which variables are associated with the presence of fatigue; and to determine which of the above chronic pain patient (CPP) groups is more fatigued. To the authors' knowledge, this is the first such study in the literature. Design. Totals of 175 chronic LBP and 33 chronic neck pain patients completed the Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory (MFI), Neuropathic Pain Scale (NPS), and Beck Depression Inventory rating scales on admission. In addition, an information tool was completed on each CPP and contained the following information: demographics, primary and secondary pain diagnoses, DSM-IV psychiatric diagnoses assigned, pain location, pain precipitating event, type of injury, years in pain, number of surgeries, types of surgery, type of pain pattern, opioids consumed per day in morphine equivalents, workers' compensation status, and whether, according to the clinical examination, the pain did or did not have a neuropathic component. Scores on the MFI were then compared with published norms for controls (nonpatients) via chi-squared tests. Bivariate analyses were conducted between the MFI subscales and the variables selected for analysis. Pearson correlations, analyses of variance, and t-tests were used to test for relationships between MFI scale scores and the appropriate variables. In the next step of the analysis, stepwise regression analyses were used to predict each of the MFI subscale scores using the variables that were found to be significantly (P < 0.05) related to fatigue by the preceding analysis. In the final analysis, the variables that were significant predictors of the fatigue subscales were controlled for as covariates in an analysis of variance in order to determine if chronic LBP patients had scores on the MFI subscales that were significantly different from those of chronic neck pain patients. Setting. Multidisciplinary pain facility. Patients. Chronic LBP and chronic neck pain patients. Results. Chronic LBP and chronic neck pain patients were found to be significantly more fatigued than controls (nonpatients). Most of the MFI subscale scores could be predicted by four major variables: presence of neuropathic pain, female gender, presence of depression, and total number of DSM-IV diagnoses. Chronic LBP patients were as fatigued as chronic neck pain patients. Conclusions. The complaint of fatigue appears to be a significant problem for chronic LBP and chronic neck pain patients. This complaint may be associated with neuropathic pain, female gender, and psychiatric comorbidities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-195
Number of pages9
JournalPain Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Chronic low back pain
  • Chronic neck pain
  • Chronic pain
  • Chronic pain patients
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Multidimensional fatigue inventory
  • Pain
  • Prediction fatigue
  • Sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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