How do people in China think about causes of their back pain? A predominantly qualitative crosssectional survey

How do people in China think about causes of their back pain? A predominantly qualitative crosssectional survey

Published 15th April 2020

Yijun Li, Michel W Coppieters, Jenny Setchell, Paul Hodges & Gwendolyne GM Scholten-Peeters


Low back pain (LBP) is the second highest cause of health burden in China. Delayed recovery, poor clinical outcomes and persistence of LBP are associated with negative pain beliefs about LBP . Chinese philosophies are nested into the daily life of people in China, which is likely to inuence pain beliefs. However, there is lack of knowledge about people’s discourses regarding their LBP in China. The primary aim of this study was to explore the discourses underlying the beliefs of people in China about what causes their persistent or recurrent LBP . The secondary aim was to investigate the sources of these pain beliefs.

People (n=152) from South Central, East and North Mainland China with LBP completed an online survey about what they believed caused their persistent or recurrent LBP and where these understandings came from. Potential causes of persistent or recurrent LBP were explored qualitatively using discourse analysis. The sources of these discourses were assessed by descriptive statistics with conventional content analysis.

Results: Five discourses were identied to underpin participants’ beliefs about what caused their persistent or recurrent LBP , namely: (1) biomedical problems (66.4%), (2) unbalanced lifestyle (48.7%), (3) menstruation and ‘kidney’ status (9.2%), (4) the ‘Five Elements’ imbalance (7.9%), and (5) energy status (5.9%). Most participants responded that their pain beliefs were based on information derived from healthcare professionals (59.2%), followed by the internet (24.3%) and family (23.0%).

Conclusions: People from moderately and well-developed parts of Mainland China think predominantly in line with a Western biomedical viewpoint about their LBP . Traditional Chinese medicine related pain beliefs mainly to the concept of ‘balance’ were evident on contemporary Chinese society’s understandings of LBP . These cultural beliefs could be relevant to consider in LBP management and involve healthcare professionals, family and patient in this process.


Publication Type

Journal Article