By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Back pain affects a significant population worldwide and has a severe impact on a nation’s productivity. Workers worldwide lose a large number of work-days to back pain. Despite this wide prevalence, there are very few sure-fire cures for back pain. Research is constantly taking place worldwide to understand the aetiologies and find therapies to ease back pain.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and other institutes of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have several pain research studies in their laboratories.
The researchers are looking at use of different drugs to effectively treat back pain, in particular, chronic pain that has lasted at least 6 months.
There are yet other studies that compare the different approaches to acute back pain and attempt to find the best approach. These studies in addition compare standard care with pain relievers and hot or cold compresses and physiotherapy with complementary therapies like chiropractic, acupuncture, or massage therapy. There are studies that compare various surgical approaches to back pain as well.
The studies on back pain look at various factors like symptom relief, restoration of function, and patient satisfaction.
Arthritis Research UK Primary Care Centre at Keele University
Arthritis Research UK Primary Care Centre at Keele University is also conducting research on back pain. They have found that a new model of primary care management called stratified primary care management can have significant benefits for patients seeking help from their GP for back pain.
For their approach they group patients into different levels of treatment depending on their level of risk (low, medium or high) for persistent or chronic back pain problems. This stratification helps in more effective treatment of patients. This also reduced healthcare costs because fewer patients ended up coming back through the healthcare system at a later date after being managed effectively at first contact.
Vertebroplasty is a new approach that has been studied extensively. It involves injection of surgical cement into vertebral bodies that have collapsed due to compression fractures to immobilize the spine.
Severe biological response modifier drugs
Like for treatment of arthritis, severe biological response modifier drugs are being tried in chronic back pain. These may provide rapid pain relief and prevent disease progression in back pain.
Reviewed by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)