Depressive symptoms, anatomical region, and clinical outcomes for patients seeking outpatient physical therapy for musculoskeletal pain

Steven Z. George, Rogelio A. Coronado, Jason M. Beneciuk, Carolina Valencia, Mark W. Werneke, Dennis L. Hart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

35 Scopus citations


Background. Clinical guidelines advocate the routine identification of depressive symptoms for patients with pain in the lumbar or cervical spine, but not for other anatomical regions. Objective. The purpose of this study was to investigate the prevalence and impact of depressive symptoms for patients with musculoskeletal pain across different anatomical regions. Design. This was a prospective, associational study. Methods. Demographic, clinical, depressive symptom (Symptom Checklist 90- Revised), and outcome data were collected by self-report from a convenience sample of 8,304 patients. Frequency of severe depressive symptoms was assessed by chisquare analysis for demographic and clinical variables. An analysis of variance examined the influence of depressive symptoms and anatomical region on intake pain intensity and functional status. Separate hierarchical multiple regression models by anatomical region examined the influence of depressive symptoms on clinical outcomes. Results. Prevalence of severe depression was higher in women, in industrial and pain clinics, and in patients who reported chronic pain or prior surgery. Lower prevalence rates were found in patients older than 65 years and those who had upperor lower-extremity pain. Depressive symptoms had a moderate to large effect on pain ratings (Cohen d=0.55- 0.87) and a small to large effect on functional status (Cohen d=0.28-0.95). In multivariate analysis, depressive symptoms contributed additional variance to pain intensity and functional status for all anatomical locations, except for discharge values for the cervical region. Conclusions. Rates of depressive symptoms varied slightly based on anatomical region of musculoskeletal pain. Depressive symptoms had a consistent detrimental influence on outcomes, except on discharge scores for the cervical anatomical region. Expanding screening recommendations for depressive symptoms to include more anatomical regions may be indicated in physical therapy settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)358-372
Number of pages15
JournalPhysical therapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2011


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

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