Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 364–374 | Cite as

Waddell’s Symptoms as Correlates of Vulnerabilities Associated with Fear–Anxiety–Avoidance Models of Pain: Pain-Related Anxiety, Catastrophic Thinking, Perceived Disability, and Treatment Outcome

  • R. N. Carleton
  • M. P. Abrams
  • S. S. Kachur
  • G. J. G. Asmundson


Introduction Fear–anxiety–avoidance models of chronic pain emphasize psychological constructs as key vulnerabilities for the development and maintenance of disabling chronic pain. Complementarily, Waddell described physical signs and symptoms thought inconsistent with anatomic and pathologic disease patterns that might function as indications of pain-related psychological distress. Research has not supported using Waddell’s signs due to low inter-rater reliability and limited associations with psychological distress; however, these findings are equivocal. Similarly, theorists have suggested that endorsement of Waddell’s symptoms may indicate psychological distress; however, the precedent research has not included the psychological constructs described in fear–anxiety–avoidance models as vulnerability factors for the development and maintenance of chronic pain. Methods Participants for the current study were patients (n = 68; 35% women) with chronic low back pain involved in a multi-disciplinary work-hardening program provided by a third-party insurer. Patients endorsing more than two of Waddell’s symptoms were compared with those who did not on demographic variables as well as established self-report psychological measures, measures of perceived disability, functional capacity, and treatment outcome. Results Patients endorsing more than two of Waddell’s symptoms reported higher levels of depressive symptoms, pain-related anxiety, fear, catastrophizing, and pain intensity. Unexpectedly, there were no significant differences in functional capacity. Similar differences were found between those who did and did not return to work. Conclusions While Waddell’s symptoms must still be interpreted judiciously, they may provide much needed cross-disciplinary utility as indicators that more detailed psychological assessment is warranted. Comprehensive implications and directions for future research are discussed.


Waddell’s symptoms Pain-related anxiety Catastrophizing Perceived disability Functional capacity Treatment outcomes 



Dr. Asmundson is supported by a Canadian Institute of Health Research Investigator’s (CIHR) Award (FRN: 63186). R. N. Carleton is supported by a CIHR Canada Graduate Scholarship Doctoral Research Award (FRN: 80455) and M. P. Abrams is supported by a CIHR Canada Graduate Scholarship Masters Award (FRN: 87912).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. N. Carleton
    • 1
  • M. P. Abrams
    • 1
  • S. S. Kachur
    • 1
  • G. J. G. Asmundson
    • 1
  1. 1.Anxiety and Illness Behaviours LaboratoryUniversity of ReginaReginaCanada

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