Elevated Mortality Risk for Women with Back Pain

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Eric Roseen, DC, MSc
Director of the Program for Integrative Medicine and Health Disparities
Boston Medical Center
Assistant Professor of Family Medicine
Boston University School of Medicine

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response: More than 80 percent of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and disability and inactivity are generally associated with greater mortality. Women and older adults, and those that experience more severe or persistent back pain, have an elevated risk of back-related disability. We were interested in whether back pain, in general or in these potentially at-risk subgroups, is associated with mortality. Thus, we conducted the first systematic literature review and meta-analysis of the association of back pain and all-cause mortality.

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Back Pain Relief: Skin Impedance Measurements Can Help Identify Trigger Points

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Giovanni Barassi PhD

Center for Physiotherapy, Rehabilitation and Reeducation
Center of Sports Medicine
“G.d’Annnunzio” University
Chieti, Italy

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response: Our research started with the observations made during standard clinical practice concerning the inefficiency of standard physiotherapeutic procedures used for pain relief in chronic nonspecific low back pain, a scourge of modern times, particularly in industrialized countries. Therefore, the need has arisen to search for new approaches in the evaluation and treatment of musculoskeletal problems.

Chronic low back pain is clinically manifest as the pain between rib margins and folds of the inferior gluteus muscle. It usually results from an incorrect lifestyle, typical of modern society having too little physical activity, too much psycho-physical stress, and poor management of body weight. On the background of osteopathic medicine, we developed a concept of the dysfunctional flow of body fluids as a plausible underlier of low back pain, referring by and large to spine bony structures.

It has been shown that alterations in afferent activity coming from visceral, structural, and emotional nociception converge in the same metamers of the spinal cord, resulting in information noise and jam. The final motor output of the reflex arc encompasses somatic, myofascial, and connective tissue responses, with the inevitably added influence of the autonomic nervous system. There also are studies demonstrating the importance of interpreting myofascial dysfunction, not as an isolated local phenomenon but rather as an expression of the central nervous activity. Therefore, a concept has been shaped of somatic and myofascial dysfunction, currently gaining increasing recognition among physicians, osteopaths, and physiotherapists, the professionals dealing with tissue and joint manipulation. The practical crux of the issue is the identification of the “major dysfunction” site, expressing the specific spinal information jam.

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Chiropractic Manual Therapy for Chronic Low Back Pain Relief

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Kylie Isenburg
Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging
Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: Chronic low back pain (cLBP) is the leading cause for disability worldwide, with a lack of efficacious non-pharmacological treatments. Back pain doesn’t just effect the back. Recent investigations using brain imaging have shown changes in brain structure and function in cLBP patients. Therefore, there is a growing interest in how different non-pharmacological therapies might impact cLBP by studying alterations in brain function that follow such therapies.

For our project, we assessed resting brain connectivity for a specific set of regions known as the Salience Network, a network involved in detection of salient information that arises from continuous sensory input. We assessed Salience network connectivity pre- and post- a single session of Manual Therapy (MT), a chiropractic manipulation technique used to treat a range of musculoskeletal disorders. We found that manual therapy reduced clinical low back pain intensity after a single-session. Additionally, assessment of two different grades of MT; Spinal Manipulation and Spinal Mobilization, suggested that Manipulation increases connectivity of the Salience Network to the Primary Motor Cortex and the Thalamus. Furthermore, the reduction in low back pain post-MT was associated with increased Salience connectivity to the lateral Prefrontal Cortex. These findings suggest modulation of sensorimotor, affective, and cognitive regions of the brain via Manual Therapy may play an important role in reducing Chronic low back pain. 

PainRelief.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Our report suggests that non-pharmacological therapies, specifically Manual Therapy, can be successful in reducing chronic low back pain intensity. It also suggests that brain changes following Manual Therapy are important, and specifically that changes in Salience network connectivity to brain regions important for processing sensory, affective, and cognitive information might underly this reduction in low back pain.

Altogether this work promotes increased investigation into brain-based mechanisms by which Manual Therapy can reduce chronic low back pain.

PainRelief.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Following this study, we have a better idea of what a single manual therapy session can accomplish, but assessment of the long-term effects of a series of MT sessions will be useful in allowing for a better understanding of its efficacy in treating low back pain. Additionally, clinical trials assessing manual therapy against other treatment modalities can allow for direct comparisons against the current standard of care approaches. 


Kylie Isenburg, Ishtiaq Mawla, Marco L. Loggia, Dan-Mikael Ellingsen, Ekaterina Protsenko, Matthew H. Kowalski, David Swensen, Deanna O’Dwyer-Swensen, Robert R. Edwards, Vitaly Napadow, Norman Kettner,

Increased salience network connectivity following manual therapy is associated with reduced pain in chronic low back pain patients,
The Journal of Pain, 202

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Why is Exercise Prescribed for Low Back Pain Relief?

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Matthew Jones PhD, AEP

Department of Exercise Physiology, Faculty of Medicine

Dr. Jones

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this review?

Response: Bck pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide and is associated with significant individual and societal costs. Low back pain can significantly impact an individual’s ability to carry out day to day tasks. Clinical guidelines consistently recommend that people with low back pain take exercise, and there does not appear to be a type of exercise (e.g., walking, Pilates, lifting weights) that is better than another for reducing pain and improving function. Despite hundreds of studies of exercise in people with low back pain, researchers do not have a good idea of how it works. This is important, because if we know how something works, we can design more effective interventions to reduce the burden of low back pain. The aim of this review was to summarise why researchers think exercise helps people with chronic low back pain (i.e., pain persisting for longer than 3 months).

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Understanding Back Pain During Neuroendovascular Procedures

PainRelief.com Interview with:

Adnan Qureshi, MD
Zeenat Qureshi Stroke Institute
Department of Neurology
University of Missouri
Columbia, MO

Dr. Qureshi

PainRelief.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

ResponseOptimizing of patient experience is a very important goal for any procedure. Neuro Endovascular procedures are unique because most of them are performed awake to perform repeated neurological examinations during the procedure. The angiographic tables have to be made of unique stiff material to ensure X rays can pass through and any movement during procedure can distort images. We believe understanding the factors that can be improved upon given the unique settings remains an important goal of the specialty. 

Our research broadens our understanding of complications of the procedures. Previous studies have look at the risk of stroke or bleeding but not complications like back pain which are far more common.

5-Year Follow-Up of Open-Label Placebo Trial for Chronic Low Back Pain Relief

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Claudia Carvalho, PhD
Instituto Universitário de Ciências Psicológicas
Social e da Vida
Lisbon, Portugal

PainRelief.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response:  Some clinical trials on chronic pain have shown placebo responses that rival those of commonly prescribed first-line therapies for low back pain (LBP).  However, prescribing placebos would pose ethical problems in clinical practice.  One solution to this problem is the use of open label placebos (OLP), which are presented to patients openly as pills without active ingredients, along with a rationale indicating that because of classical conditioning of relief with active medications, the pills themselves might reduce pain. OLP has been shown effective compared to treatment-as-usual for a number of clinical conditions, including chronic LBP.  Having conducted the first clinical trial on OLP on back pain, my colleagues and I wondered whether the effects were long-lasting. To answer that question, we conducted a five-year follow-up on the patients who had received OLP for their back pain.

In our original study, patients who took OLP pills for three weeks experienced greater reduction in back pain intensity and in back pain related disability than patients that simply continued their usual treatment. Additionally, after this phase of the trial, we offered OLP to participants  in the treatment as usual group) and they also reported a significant reductions in pain and disability, together with a spontaneous decrease in the use of pain medication by participants.

In our current follow-up, we found that patients who had taken OLP for three weeks had maintained their reductions in pain and disability 5 years later. In addition, pain medication usage was reduced by 49%. This follow-up study is currently in press (https://journals.lww.com/pain/Fulltext/9000/Open_label_placebo_for_chronic_low_back_pain__a.98186.aspx)

Electro-Acupuncture Can Provide Pain Relief from Chronic Low Back Pain

PainRelief.com Interview with:

Jiang-Ti Kong, MD, Division of Pain Medicine
Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine
Stanford University School of Medicine
Palo Alto, CA

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response: Chronic low back pain is the most common chronic pain condition. Its treatment can be challenging, particularly given the side effects from conventional treatments. These include surgical complications and medication side effects, such as opioid dependence and kidney/liver damage. Acupuncture is receiving increasing attention as an alternative treatment for chronic low back pain. However, multiple large studies showed similar effect sizes between real acupuncture and sham (control) acupuncture. Interestingly, most of these studies involve the use of manual acupuncture, while pre-clinical studies suggest the use of electro-acupuncture may lead to greater analgesia than control. Few have formally studied the clinical effect of electro-acupuncture in a randomized, controlled setting. A major objective of our study was to investigate the clinical effect of electro-acupuncture relative to sham control in a randomized, participant- and assessor-blinded, clinical trial.

Acupuncture needle

Equally importantly, we were interested in exploring predictors of clinical response to electro-acupuncture, because, in general, about 40-60% of individuals treated with acupuncture experience clinically significant improvement. It would be helpful to identify responders to acupuncture before treatment initiation. We explored potential predictors of clinical response to electro-acupuncture by performing univariate, treatment heterogeneity and multivariate analysis between baseline participant characteristics and clinical outcome, defined as either pain reduction or improvement in function.

Inadequate Pain Control After Spine Surgery is Common

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Michael M. H. Yang MD, MSc

Departments of Clinical Neurosciences, Section of Neurosurgery, 
Community Health Sciences
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
New York, New York

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response: Spine surgery has been ranked as one of the most painful surgical procedures. Patients who experience poor pain control have delayed recovery, take more opioids, and stay in the hospital longer. The objective of our study was to determine patient and surgical factors that increased the chance for poorly controlled pain after spine surgery. These risk factors were incorporated into a score that can be used to determine the likelihood of a poor patient pain experience.

PainRelief.com: What are the main findings?

Response: Overall, 57% of patients experienced poorly controlled pain after their spinal operation in our study. We found 7 risk factors for poor pain control: younger age, female sex, daily use of opioid medication, higher neck or back pain intensity, higher depression score, surgery involving 3 or more levels, and fusion surgery. These risk factors were used to create the Calgary Postoperative Pain After Spine Surgery (CAPPS) Score. Patients identified as low-, high-, and extreme-risk by the CAPPS score had 32%, 63%, and 85% chance of experiencing poorly controlled pain, respectively.

ACP Recommends Non-Pharmacologic Treatments for Pain Relief From Acute Non–Low Back, Musculoskeletal Injuries

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Timothy Wilt, MD, MPH
Chair ACP Clinical Guidelines Committee
Professor of Medicine
Minneapolis VA Center for Care Delivery and Outcomes Research.

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: Acute non-low back musculoskeletal pain is common, disabling and costly. Most are treated in outpatient settings. Numerous pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic treatment options exist but there is uncertainty of their benefits, harms and costs. Additionally, opioid prescriptions are common for acute musculoskeletal injuries but have harms and can lead to chronic opioid use including dependence and overdose. ACP and AAFP developed these evidence based guidelines to assist clinicians in providing the highest quality care to their patients by considering information on benefits, harms and costs alongside patient values and preferences. Our main recommendations are as follows:

1)      ACP and AAFP recommend that clinicians treat patients with acute pain from non–low back, musculoskeletal injuries with topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) with or without menthol gel as first-line therapy to reduce or relieve symptoms, including pain; improve physical function; and improve the patient’s treatment satisfaction.

2)      ACP and AAFP suggest that clinicians treat patients with acute pain from non–low back, musculoskeletal injuries with oral NSAIDs to reduce or relieve symptoms, including pain, and to improve physical function, or with oral acetaminophen to reduce pain.

3)      ACP and AAFP suggest that clinicians treat patients with acute pain from non–low back, musculoskeletal injuries with specific acupressure to reduce pain and improve physical function, or with transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation to reduce pain.

4)      ACP and AAFP suggest against clinicians treating patients with acute pain from non–low back, musculoskeletal injuries with opioids, including tramadol.

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Is Spinal Manipulation Better Than Placebo for Low Back Pain Relief?

PainRelief.com Interview with:
James S Thomas, PT, PhD

Departments of Physical Therapy and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Director of Motor Control Laboratory
Virginia Commonwealth University
Departments of Physical Therapy and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Director of Motor Control Laboratory
Virginia Commonwealth University
Richmond, VA 23298

Dr. Thomas

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response: While there are numerous studies on spinal manipulation which is typically defined as  high velocity short amplitude thrust procedure to treat a hypomobile vertebral segment, there are very few studies that examine spinal mobilization (typically described as non-thrust or as a muscle energy technique). There are even fewer studies on the comparative effectiveness of these interventions. 

Accordingly, the RELIEF study was designed to provide a rigorous examination of the comparative effectiveness of the two most common manual therapy techniques for treating low back pain (i.e., manipulation versus mobilization) compared to an effective placebo (i.e., Sham Cold Laser).

PainRelief.com: What are the main findings?

Response: Relative to the placebo group, there was no difference in the change in pain or disability for either spinal manipulation or mobilization. 

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