Symptoms of impairment, disability and handicap in low back pain: A taxonomy

Andrew C. HARPER, Dorothy A. HARPER, Laurie J. LAMBERT, Hank B. ANDREWS, Sing Kai LO, Margaret F. ROSS, Leon M. STRAKER

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24 Citations (Scopus)


The functional consequences on everyday living which result from chronic low back pain commonly require services which are difficult to access. This deficiency in meeting the needs of these patients is partially explained by inadequacies in clinical assessment. Medical evaluation may be exhaustive, but frequently the assessment of physical and psycho-social dysfunction at the personal and family level is inadequate. In low back pain, as with most chronic ailments, there is no agreed-upon taxonomy of the functional consequences of the disorder upon which to establish a comprehensive clinical appraisal. In this paper a taxonomy is presented for the impairments, disabilities and handicaps which result from chronic low back pain. The taxonomy has been based on data from a survey of 74 individuals with low back pain and is structured generally according to the International Classification of Impairments, Disabilities and Handicaps (WHO 1980). The taxonomy is proposed as a conceptual framework and vocabulary for both clinical practice and research. The taxonomy is not a measurement instrument nor does it indicate the frequency of occurrence of disabilities. A classification is basic to the advancement of scientific understanding, and usage of a standard vocabulary such as this plays an important role in establishing a responsive health service capable of meeting the needs of the population with chronic low back pain. Copyright © 1992 Lippincott-Raven Publishers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-195
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1992


Harper, A. C., Harper, D. A., Lambert, L. J., Andrews, H. B., Lo, S. K., Ross, M. F., & Straker, L. M. (1992). Symptoms of impairment, disability and handicap in low back pain: A taxonomy. Pain, 50(2), 189-195. doi: 10.1016/0304-3959(92)90160-D


  • Low back pain
  • Consequences
  • Functional
  • Taxonomy
  • Impairments
  • Disabilities
  • Handicaps


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