New Zealand Guidelines Group
New Zealand Guidelines Group - New Zealand Guideline - Completed

Guide to Assessing Psychosocial Yellow Flags in Acute Low Back Pain:
Risk Factors for Long-Term Disability and Work Loss


Purpose of the Guideline

This guide is to be used in conjunction with the New Zealand Acute Low Back Pain Guide. It provides an overview of risk factors for long-term disability and work loss, and an outline of methods to assess these at risk. Identification should lead to appropriate early management targeted towards the prevention of chronic pain and disability.

This guide complements the New Zealand Acute Low Back Pain Guide and is intended for use in conjunction with it. This guide describes ‘Yellow Flags’; psychosocial factors that are likely to increase the risk of an individual with acute low back pain developing prolonged pain and disability causing work loss, and associated loss of quality of life. It aims to:

  • provide a method of screening for psychosocial factors
  • provide a systematic approach to assessing psychosocial factors
  • suggest strategies for better management of those with acute low back pain who have ‘Yellow Flags’ indicating increased risks of chronicity.

This guide is not intended to be a rigid prescription and will permit flexibility and choice, allowing the exercise of good clinical judgement according to the particular circumstances of the patient. The management suggestions outlined in this document are based on the best available evidence to date.




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New Zealand Guidelines Group
New Zealand