The Impact of Observational Learning on Physical Activity Appraisal and Exertion Following Experimental Back Injury and the Role of Pain-Related Fear

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Chronic low back pain (CLBP) is one of the most prevalent and disabling health conditions in the US and worldwide. Biomedical explanations of acute injury fail to account for why some individuals experience remission of pain and restoration of physical function while others do not. Pain-related fear, accompanied by elevated appraisals of physical exertion and avoidance of physical activity, has emerged as a central psychosocial risk factor for transition from acute injury to chronic pain and disability. Research has indicated that these pain-related factors may be maintained through observational learning mechanisms. To date, no studies have experimentally examined the role ... continued below

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Guck, Adam August 2017.

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  • Guck, Adam

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Chronic low back pain (CLBP) is one of the most prevalent and disabling health conditions in the US and worldwide. Biomedical explanations of acute injury fail to account for why some individuals experience remission of pain and restoration of physical function while others do not. Pain-related fear, accompanied by elevated appraisals of physical exertion and avoidance of physical activity, has emerged as a central psychosocial risk factor for transition from acute injury to chronic pain and disability. Research has indicated that these pain-related factors may be maintained through observational learning mechanisms. To date, no studies have experimentally examined the role of observational learning and pain-related fear in the context of actual musculoskeletal injury. Accordingly, the present study examined the impact of observational learning and pain-related fear on activity appraisals and exertion following experimentally- induced acute low back injury. Healthy participants' appraisal of standardized movement tasks along with measures of physical exertion were collected prior to and following a procedure designed to induce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) to the lower back. Following induction of DOMS, participants observed a video prime depicting CLBP patients exhibiting either high or low pain behavior during similar standardized movements. In line with hypothesized effects, participants assigned to the high pain behavior prime demonstrated greater elevation in pain and harm appraisals as well as greater decrement in physical exertion. Further in line with hypotheses, significant changes in appraisal and physical performance following the high pain behavior prime were only observed among participants endorsing high pain-related fear during baseline assessment. Discussion of findings addresses potential mechanisms of action as well as study limitations and direction for future research.

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  • August 2017

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  • Oct. 9, 2017, 11:44 a.m.

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Guck, Adam. The Impact of Observational Learning on Physical Activity Appraisal and Exertion Following Experimental Back Injury and the Role of Pain-Related Fear, dissertation, August 2017; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1011777/: accessed September 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .