To coincide with pain week NeuRA brings attention to five recently published studies on back pain.
Anxiety and depression increase back pain consults. The study of 2891 patients with acute back pain found that those who feel anxious consult with healthcare practitioners 50% more frequently over three months than someone with similar pain levels and no anxiety. Similarly, someone who felt very depressed would consult with healthcare practitioners 30% more frequently over three months. Interventions that target emotional distress during the initial consultation are likely to reduce costly and potentially inappropriate future healthcare use for patients with non-specific low back pain the authors conclude.
How pain affects the brain. People with back pain have decreased volume of grey matter in areas of the brain associated with producing pain – for example areas associated with the anticipation and unpleasantness of pain – as well as emotional regulation and with cognitive processing. This tells us that the brains of people who have had back pain for a long time process everyday experiences differently from those who don’t have pain, which could contribute to the development and maintenance of back pain.
Online tool predicts longevity of back pain. Developed by NeuRA researchers PICKUP uses five questions to estimate the risk of back pain lasting longer than three months. A version of the online tool is available for both patients and GPs.
Tweeting back. A study of more than 742,000 Twitter users identified key words that indicated a person was highly likely to injure their back. The researchers say back injuries could potentially be prevented by tweeting educational materials to the at-risk Twitter users.
Understanding pain builds confidence in outcomes. A review of 12 RCTs involving over 3,000 patients found a very brief intervention at the doctor’s office — where the GP explains how physical factors are only one part of the problem – can reassure patients for up to a year. The researchers have developed a patient education model that explains how the brain is involved in pain and are currently testing this in a randomised clinical trial.