Chronic Low-back Pain Research Standards Announced by NIH Panel

Recommended standards for clinical low-back pain research hold promise for more consistently designed research and, in the long term, better treatment solutions to support those living with chronic low-back pain. The recommendations from the National Institutes of Health Task Force on Research Standards for Chronic Low-Back Pain were published in several leading back pain journals.

The Institute of Medicine has estimated that chronic pain affects approximately 100 million adults in the United States, with an estimated annual cost of up to $635 billion. In the United States, low-back pain is the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work. Back pain is the second most common neurological ailment in the United States — only headache is more common. Each year, low-back pain is estimated to affect approximately 38 percent of people worldwide.

At the core of the panel’s recommendations is a standard set of data collection questions, or a uniform minimal dataset, intended to increase consistency among studies. The data collection questions include assessing length of time a patient has been experiencing low-back pain, asking about functional limitations, use of various treatment approaches, and impact on a variety of factors such as mood and sleep. A peer-reviewed article detailing the work of the panel and the resulting recommendations and dataset was published in The Journal of Pain (which led the peer-review process), The Clinical Journal of Pain, European Spine Journal, Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, Pain Medicine, Spine, and The Spine Journal.

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