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Volume 100-B, Issue SUPP_2 February 2018 The Society for Back Pain Research (SBPR), Northampton, England, November 2017

Y Chen P Campbell V Strauss NE Foster KP Jordan KM Dunn

Background and objectives

Low back pain (LBP) is a major health challenge globally. Research has identified common trajectories of pain over time. We aimed to investigate whether trajectories described in one primary care cohort can be confirmed in another, and to determine the prognostic value of factors collected 5 years prior to the identification of the trajectory.

Methods and results

The study was carried out on 281 patients who had consulted primary care for LBP, at that point completed a baseline questionnaire, and then returned a questionnaire at 5-years follow-up plus at least 3 (of 6) subsequent monthly questionnaires. Baseline factors were measured using validated tools. Pain intensity scores from the 5-year follow-up and monthly questionnaires were used to cluster participants into 4 previously derived pain trajectories (no or occasional mild, persistent mild, fluctuating, persistent severe), using latent class analysis. Posterior probabilities of belonging to each cluster were estimated for each participant. The posterior probabilities for the assigned clusters were very high (>0.90) for each cluster except for the smallest ‘fluctuating’ cluster (0.74). Lower social class (OR 2.9; 95% CI 1.2, 7.0), higher pain intensity (1.6 per unit; 1.2, 2.2), and pain duration greater than 3 years (2.7; 1.0, 7.3), were significantly associated with a more severe trajectory 5-years later, as were higher physical disability, emotional impact of pain, and perception pain will last a long time.

K Brownhill F Mellor

Purpose and background

Identifying features in nonspecific low back pain (NSLBP) subjects that distinguish them from controls, or for elucidating subgroups, has proved elusive. Yet these would be helpful to monitor progress, improve management, and understand the nature of the condition. Previous work using quantitative videofluoroscopy (QF) has indicated that the distribution of motion between lumbar intervertebral joints is more uneven in those with a history of NSLBP. However, there maybe other features of these complex motion patterns yet to be revealed. A multivariate analysis was therefore carried out to explore other possible differences.

Methods and results

Intervertebral motion data of L2/3 to L4/5, from a previously published study was used. This examined 40 patients with NSLBP and 40 healthy controls, matched for gender, age and body mass index, who underwent passive recumbent QF in the coronal and sagittal planes. For each motion direction, principal components analysis was carried out and salient dimensions selected. Using a lower dimensional principal components (PC) representation, groups were compared using Hoteling's T test. Linear and quadratic discriminant analysis (LDA and QDA) was carried out using PC representations to examine group differences. The features most clearly distinguishing groups from the LDA was examined graphically. An analysis of the sensitivity of the results to the number of PC dimensions was carried out. The performance of the LDA and QDA classifiers were examined using leave-one-out cross-validation.

D Cherkin JC Hill G Sowden NE Foster

Purpose & Background

The STarT Back risk-stratification approach uses the STarT Back Tool to categorise patients with low back pain (LBP) at low, medium or high-risk of persistent disabling pain, in order to match treatments. The MATCH trial (NCT02286141) evaluated the effect of implementing an adaptation of this approach in a United States healthcare setting.


This was a pragmatic cluster randomised trial with a pre-intervention baseline period. Six primary care clinics were pair-randomised, three to an intensive stratified care quality improvement intervention and three as controls. LBP patients were invited to provide outcomes two weeks after their primary care visit, and two and six months later. Primary outcomes were physical function (RMDQ) and pain (0–10 NRS), and secondary outcomes including healthcare use and treatments provided received. Analysis was intention-to-treat.

H Abbey L Nanke


Chronic pain is a complex condition that demonstrates better outcomes in multidisciplinary rehabilitation, typically delivered to groups of patients by tertiary healthcare teams. An inter-disciplinary pain management course for individual patients was developed to increase the scope of physical therapists working in primary care by integrating osteopathic manual therapy with psychological interventions from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a form of ‘3rd wave’ Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.

Method and Results

A single cohort study with pre-course (n=180) and post-course (n=79) self-report measures (44% response rate) evaluated six week interventions which combined individual manual therapy with self-management, delivered by teams of qualified and student osteopaths. Data included: quality of life (European Quality of Life Questionnaire); pain, mood and coping (Bournemouth Questionnaire); psychological flexibility (Revised Acceptance and Action Questionnaire); and mindfulness (Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory). Participants were predominantly female (68%), unemployed (59%), with an average age of 49 and pain duration of more than 12 months (86%). Commonly reported symptoms were low back pain (82%), neck pain (60%) and multiple sites (86%). At six months, there were statistically significant improvements in all four outcome measures (p<0.0005), with promising effect sizes in quality of life and pain coping (r=0.52) which appeared to be mediated by changes in psychological flexibility.

K Braeuninger-Weimer N Anjarwalla T Weerasinghe M Lunn S Das H Mohammed T Pincus


Previous research in people with musculoskeletal low back pain (MLBP) in primary care shows that a reliable and valid measure of consultation-based reassurance enables testing reassurance against patient' outcomes. Little is known about the role of reassurance in people with MLBP consulting spinal surgeons, especially in cases where surgeons recommend not to have surgery. There might be several reasons to exclude surgery as a treatment option, that range from positive messages about symptoms resolving to negative messages, suggesting that all reasonable avenue of treatment have been exhausted.

AIM to explore patient's experience of consultation-based reassurance in people with MLBP who have been recently advised not to have surgery.


Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 30 low back pain patients who had recently consulted for spinal surgery and were advised that surgery is not indicated. Interview were audio recorded and transcribed, and then coded using NVIVO qualitative software and analysed using the Framework Analysis.

SM Richardson T Hodgkinson L White K Shakesheff JA Hoyland


Stem cell therapy has been suggested as a potential regenerative strategy to treat IVD degeneration and GDF6 has been shown to differentiate adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs) into an NP-like phenotype. However, for clinical translation, a delivery system is required to ensure controlled and sustained GDF6 release. This study aimed to investigate the encapsulation of GDF6 inside novel microparticles (MPs) to control delivery and assess the effect of the released GDF6 on NP-like differentiation of human ASCs.


GDF6 release from PLGA-PEG-PLGA MPs over 14 days was determined using BCA and ELISA. The effect of MP loading density on collagen gel formation was assessed through SEM and histological staining. ASCs were cultured in collagen hydrogels for 14 days with GDF6 delivered exogenously or via microspheres. ASC differentiation was assessed by qPCR for NP markers, glycosaminoglycan production (DMMB) and immunohistochemistry.

M-A Jess C Ryan S Hamilton S Wellburn C Greenough D Ferguson A Coxon F Fatoye J Dickson A Jones G Atkinson D Martin


To investigate whether the duration of pain has an influence on the clinical outcomes of patients with low back pain (LBP) managed through the North East of England Regional Back Pain and Radicular Pain Pathway (NERBPP).

Patients and Methods

The NERBPP is a clinical pathway based upon NICE guidelines (2009) for LBP. Patients with LBP referred onto the NERBPP by their General Practitioner (GP) between May 2015 and January 2017 were included in this evaluation. Data from 635 patients, who provided pre and post data for pain (Numerical rating scale [NRS]), function (Oswestry Disability Index [ODI]) and quality-of-life (EuroQol [EQ5D]), were analysed using a series of covariate adjusted models in SPSS. Patients were categorised into four groups based upon pain duration: <3months, ≥3 to <6months, ≥6months to <12months, ≥12months.

NA Osei

Purposes of study and background

The study aim is to evaluate the efficacy of dynamic MRI scanning in identifying radiological causes of positional sciatica over a 5-year period.

Summary of methods used and the results

We describe the results of a prospective series of patients who completed open MRI scanning, indicated for lower back pain and positional sciatica. 40 open MRI scans were requested between March 2012 and March 2017. 31 patients were intolerant to conventional MRI Scanning due to either claustrophobia or the inability to lie flat. 9 patients were identified as having positional sciatica. All patients completed the Oswestry Disability Index as part of their clinical assessment. The MRI images and radiology report were reviewed to identify surgically relevant causes. Dynamic foraminal narrowing and a progressive disc protrusion were identified in 2 patients who presented with positional sciatica. 23% of patients who were scanned had positional sciatica. 5% of patients indicated for open MRI scanning demonstrated surgically relevant changes on dynamic MRI scanning. 22% of those with positional sciatica demonstrated surgically relevant pathology on dynamic scanning.

D Serbic L Ferguson M Smith G Thomas T Pincus

Purpose of the study and background

Although pain is usually described as a private experience, how pain is understood and responded to by others is important. A crucial feature of this process is empathy. The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between empathy for pain and observers' health anxiety and fear of pain. The role of the observer's sex and age were also examined.

Methods and results

In this study 159 participants (73 males, mean age=41, SD=19.6) were presented with 16 images of individuals in pain (8 female, 8 male), and subsequently rated their empathy towards them. Participants then completed the fear of pain and health anxiety measures. Both fear of pain and health anxiety were positively associated with empathy for pain, but in the regression model only fear of pain was a significant positive predictor of empathy for pain (p< .001). Further analysis revealed that when controlling for the effects of fear of pain, the correlation between health anxiety and empathy became non-significant. The same results were found when the overall empathy for pain score was split into empathy for male and female images. Observers' sex and age were not significant predictors of empathy for pain.

D Alothman L Sheeran V Sparkes

Purpose of the Study

To develop an online self-assessment and self-management tool (BACKonLINE™) for discerning between people with characteristics of predominantly centrally (CD) or peripherally (PD) driven LBP.


Low back pain (LBP) may worsen with time, making appropriate treatment important. In the NHS Physiotherapy services LBP patients may wait for 14–24 weeks for treatments. Many factors contribute to LBP, but it is predominantly initially viewed as a result of peripheral tissue damage. However, evidence show that persistent LBP is associated with amplification in pain processing in the central nervous system (central sensitisation). Sometimes, this may drive symptoms, resulting in poorer outcomes and requiring longer management. Timely assessment and appropriate management is therefore paramount.

G Savergnini S Vogel

Purpose and background

Pain related distress is associated with poor low back pain outcomes, and is challenging for practitioners to address. This study investigated osteopaths' beliefs about the relationship between chronic pain (CP) and distress (D). The research aimed to explore how patient's distress is understood and managed by osteopath educator clinicians with an interest in the field.

Methods and results

A qualitative research design using a constructivist grounded theory analytical approach was used to analyse semi-structured interviews. A purposive sample of seven osteopaths working at the British School of Osteopathy (BSO) with experience with CP-D was recruited. Data collection and analysis were carried out simultaneously. Audio-recording, verbatim-transcriptions, memos-writing and diary-keeping were used to develop themes and theory.

Three main themes were identified: osteopaths understanding of the CP-D presentation, evaluation and assessment of the CP-D patient, the role of the osteopath and therapist-patient interaction in CP-D treatment. Three sub-themes were developed for each theme.

TP Sugavanam B Fordham Z Hansen E Williamson G Boniface A Usama H Richmond S Lamb

Purpose of study

To evaluate implementation of the Back Skills Training (BeST) programme in clinical practice within the National Health Service (NHS).


The BeST programme is a group Cognitive Behavioural Approach (CBA) for people with persistent (≥6 weeks) low back pain (LBP). This intervention has been shown to be clinically and cost-effective in a large pragmatic trial. To aid implementation of the BeST programme, an online training intervention (iBeST) was developed.

C Perrin S Bruce-Low J Arnold S Burnet S Holloway J Steele

Background & Purpose

The co-ordinated contraction of the kinetic chain is responsible for the dissipation of force. Weakness in the kinetic chain, such as the posterior oblique sling (POS), may increase the demand on additional muscles, such as the hamstrings, to compensate. The lumbar extensors may be particularly vulnerable in the kinetic chain, as they appear difficult to strengthen due to the dominant hip extensors. Therefore, this study aimed to investigate whether participants with a history of hamstring injuries presented with low back pain because of greater deficits in lumbar extensor strength, and impaired co-ordination of the POS.


Twenty male footballers were recruited (n: Injured- 9, Controls- 11). Isolated lumbar extension strength, low back pain, and the contraction time of muscles within the POS during a hip extension test were recorded. Participants were then grouped in either the injury or control group.

ASE Alreni SM McLean S Demack D Harrop K Kilner

Background and objectives

Numerous approaches are recommended for the management of non-specific neck pain (NS-NP). However, the extent to which approaches are used is unclear. This survey investigated current UK physiotherapists' measurement and management of patients with NS-NP.

Methods and results

Physiotherapists were invited to participate in an online survey if they were practicing in the UK and had experience of managing NS-NP. 2101 responses were received. Analysis of the results indicated the overall popularity of active treatment approaches with 84% and 61% of respondents employing exercise and patient education respectively. 48% of respondents reported using a multimodal approach (that is, combination of exercise and manual therapy with/without patient education). Over a third of respondents reported not using outcome measures (OMs) for NS-NP. Of the two-thirds who reported using OMs, the majority reported using pain and range of motion measures. Physical and functional limitations, psychological distress, and quality of life constructs, which are frequently associated with NS-NP, were rarely measured.

J Steele J Fisher S Bruce-Low D Smith N Osborne D Newell

Purpose and Background

Strengthening the lumbar extensor musculature is a common recommendation for CLBP. Although reported as effective, variability in response in CLBP populations is not well investigated. This study investigated variability in responsiveness to isolated lumbar extension (ILEX) resistance training in CLBP participants by retrospective analysis of 3 RCTS.

Methods and Results

Data from 77 intervention participants was available (males = 43, females = 34) 37 control participants (males = 20, females = 17). Intervention participants all underwent 12wks of ILEX resistance training and changes in ILEX strength, pain (VAS) and disability (ODI) measured. True inter-individual response variability was examined through calculation of difference in the standard deviation of change scores for both control and intervention. Intervention participants were classified into using k-means cluster analysis for strength changes and using MCIC cut-offs for VAS and ODI. Analysis suggested true inter-individual responses to the intervention existed. Participants were classified for strength changes as low (n = 31), medium (n = 36), and high responders (n = 10). Participants were classified for VAS changes as negative (n = 3), non-responders (n = 34), responders (n = 15), and high responders (n = 19). Participants were classified for ODI changes as negative (n = 2), non-responders (n = 21), responders (n = 29), and high responders (n = 25).

A Thorpe C Freeman P Farthing J Callaghan P Hatton I Brook C Sammon CL Le Maitre


We have reported an injectable L-pNIPAM-co-DMAc hydrogel with hydroxyaptite nanoparticles (HAPna) which promotes mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) differentiation to bone cells without the need for growth factors. This hydrogel could potentially be used as an osteogenic and osteoconductive bone filler of spinal cages to improve vertebral body fusion. Here we investigated the biocompatibility and efficacy of the hydrogel in vivo using a proof of concept femur defect model.


Rat sub-cut analysis was performed to investigate safety in vivo. A rat femur defect model was performed to evaluate efficacy. Four groups were investigated: sham operated controls; acellular L-pNIPAM-co-DMAc hydrogel; acellular L-pNIPAM-co-DMAc hydrogel with HAPna; L-pNIPAM-co-DMAc hydrogel with rat MSCs and HAPna. Following 4 weeks, defect site and organs were histologically examined to determine integration, repair and inflammatory response, as well as Micro-CT to assess mineralisation.

A Thorpe L Vickers F Charlton A Cole N Chiverton C Sammon CL Le Maitre


Intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration is a major cause of Low back pain (LBP). We have reported an injectable hydrogel (NPgel), which following injection into bovine NP explants, integrates with NP tissue and promotes NP cell differentiation of delivered mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) without growth factors. Here we investigated the injection of NPgel+MSCs into bovine NP explants under degenerate culture conditions to mimic the in vivo environment of the degenerate IVD.


hMSCs were incorporated within liquid NPgel and injected into bovine NP explants alongside controls. Explants were cultured for 6 weeks under hypoxia (5%) with ± calcium 5.0mM CaCl2 or IL-1β individually or in combination to mimic the degenerate microenvironment. Cell viability was assessed by caspase 3 immunohistochemistry. Histological and immunohistochemical analysis was performed to investigate altered matrix synthesis and matrix degrading enzyme expression.

J Snuggs R Day N Chiverton A Cole R Bunning M Conner MA Tryfonidou CL Le Maitre


During development the central disc contains large, vacuolated notochordal (NC) cells which in humans are replaced by mature nucleus pulposus (NP) cells during aging, but are maintained in certain breeds of dogs. During degeneration the disc becomes less hydrated which affects its normal function. Aquaporins (AQP) are a family of 13 transmembrane channel proteins that allow passage of water and are responsible for maintaining water homeostasis. AQP1, 2, 3 and 5 have been identified in the intervertebral disc (IVD). Here, expression of AQPs in human and canine IVDs to determine expression in NC v/s NP cells and whether expression changes during degeneration.


Gene expression of all 13 AQPs, were investigated in 102 human NP samples using RT-qPCR. AQPs which were expressed at gene level were further investigated by Immunohistochemistry in human and canine IVD samples.

SJ Owen CL Thompson SR McGlashan MM Knight M Ockendon S Roberts


Primary cilia are singular structures containing a microtubule-based axoneme which are believed to not only be mechanosensitive but also to co-ordinate many cell functions via signalling pathways including Hedgehog and Wnt. Primary cilia have previously been described on cells of mouse intervertebral discs (IVDs), but not in bovine or human IVDs. Our aim was to examine primary cilia in these species.


Nucleus pulposus cells were obtained from cows with no overt disc degeneration and patients following spine surgery (for herniations and/or degenerative disc disease) and cultured until confluent before maintaining with or without serum for 24h. Primary cilia were visualised with antibodies to the axoneme (acetylated α-tubulin and Arl13b) and/or the basal body (pericentrin) using fluorescent secondary antibodies and ≥200 cells per sample were counted.

AV Pavlova SG Muthuri FR Saunders RJ Hardy JS Gregory RJ Barr KR Martin JE Adams D Kuh R Cooper RM Aspden


To investigate associations between sagittal thoracolumbar spine shape with sex and measures of adiposity throughout adulthood.


Thoracolumbar spine shape was characterised using statistical shape modelling on lateral dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry images, recorded for vertebral fracture analysis, of the spine from 1529 participants of the MRC National Survey of Health and Development, acquired at age 60–64 years. Associations between spine shape modes (SM) and 1) sex, 2) contemporaneous measures of overall and central adiposity (indicated by body mass index and waist circumference, respectively), 3) changes in total and central adiposity during earlier stages of adulthood and age at onset of overweight, were investigated.

N Koenders A Rushton ML Verra PC Willems TJ Hoogeboom JB Staal

Purpose and background

Lumbar spinal fusion (LSF) is frequently and increasingly used in lumbar degenerative disorders despite conflicting results and recommendations. Further understanding of patient outcomes after LSF is required to inform decisions regarding surgery and to improve post-surgery management. The objective was to evaluate the course of pain and disability in patients with degenerative disorders of the lumbar spine (spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, disc herniation, discogenic low back pain) after first-time LSF.

Methods and results

A systematic review and meta-analysis of pain and disability outcomes in prospective cohort studies after first time LSF for degenerative disorders. Two independent researchers searched key databases, determined study eligibility, extracted data and assessed risk of bias (modified Quality in Prognostic Studies tool). A third reviewer mediated at each stage. N weighted pooled estimates were calculated. Twenty-five articles (n=1,777 participants) were included. 17 studies were at unclear risk of bias and 8 at high risk. Back pain (12 studies) decreased modestly and irregularly at follow-up intervals. The n weighted mean VAS back pain decreased from 65.4 (±3.3) pre-surgery to 22.2 (±3.1) at 23 months, but then 45.0 (±not reported; 2 studies at risk of bias) at 42 months. In contrast, leg pain (12 studies) improved substantially short and long-term. Disability (20 studies) improved steadily over time with the exception of the 42-months and 48-months intervals.

C Ryan LC Roberts

Background and purpose of the study

Patients with sciatica experience high levels of disability and poor outcomes and treatment has demonstrated, at best, only modest success. To be effective, management strategies must be informed by patients' perceptions about ‘what matters’ about experiencing this condition. The aim of this paper is to explore the lived experience of sciatica and to consider the implications for clinical practice.

Methods and results

In this qualitative study, based on the principles of interpretative phenomenological analysis, 14 participants with a clinical presentation of sciatica of likely nerve root origin were purposively recruited from an NHS, Primary Care Musculoskeletal Service in the UK. Individual, semi-structured interviews were used to collect data, which were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data were managed using a framework approach and analysed thematically.

Sciatica was experienced as a protracted journey of acute exacerbations of uncontrolled and incapacitating symptoms that were overwhelming and difficult to make sense of. Adversely affecting almost all aspects of life, participants struggled to maintain their physical, functional and financial independence; their important relationships; social networks and the roles and activities that provided joy and purpose. The impact of sciatica was a ‘life on hold’; an altered sense of self and an uncertain future. For three participants, the experience of sciatica was sufficiently distressing for them to contemplate suicide.

C Ryan LC Roberts

Background and purpose of the study

Uncertainty remains regarding the optimal method of diagnosing sciatica. Clinical guidelines currently recommend that investigations be used only when they are likely to change management. In clinical practice, considerable variation can occur between patient and clinician, regarding the perceived importance of investigations such as MRI scans. The aim of this study was to explore patients' experiences of investigations and to consider the impact of concordance between clinical presentation and investigation findings.

Methods and results

In this qualitative study, based on the principles of interpretative phenomenological analysis, 14 participants with a clinical presentation of sciatica of likely nerve root origin, who had recently undergone investigations, were purposively recruited from an NHS, Primary Care Musculoskeletal Service in the UK. Individual, semi-structured interviews were used to collect data, which were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data were managed using a framework approach and analysed thematically.

Although patients reported wanting investigations to understand the cause of symptoms and inform management, access to them was difficult and protracted. When investigations revealed potentially relevant findings, patients experienced relief, validation, empowerment and decisive decision-making. Disappointment emerged, however, regarding treatment waiting times and options, and long-term prognosis. When investigations failed to identify relevant findings, patients were unable to make sense of their symptoms, move forward in their management or relinquish their search to identify the cause.

S Ely S Stynes R Ogollah NE Foster K Konstantinou


Criticisms about overuse of MRI in low back pain are well documented. Yet, with the exception of suspicion of serious pathology, little is known about factors that influence clinicians' preference for MRI. We investigated the factors associated with physiotherapists' preference for MRI for patients consulting with benign low back and leg pain (LBLP) including sciatica.


Data were collected from 607 primary care patients consulting with LBLP and assessed by 7 physiotherapists, in the ATLAS cohort study. Following clinical assessment, physiotherapists documented whether he/she wanted the patient to have an MRI. Factors potentially associated with clinicians' preference for imaging were selected a priori, from patient characteristics and clinical assessment findings. A mixed-effect logistic regression model examined the associations between these factors and physiotherapists' preference for MRI.

K Konstantinou Y Rimmer L Huckfield S Stynes N Burgess NE Foster


Recruitment to time and target in clinical trials is a key challenge requiring careful estimation of numbers of potential participants. The SCOPiC trial ((HTA 12/201/09) (ISRCTN75449581)) is investigating the clinical and cost-effectiveness of stratified care for patients with sciatica in primary care. Here, we describe the approaches followed to achieve recruitment of our required sample size (n=470), the challenges encountered and required adaptations.


We used recruitment data from the SCOPiC trial and its internal pilot, to show the differences between estimated and actual numbers of patients from consultation to participation in the trial. Patients were consented to the trial if they had a clinical diagnosis of sciatica (with at least 70% confidence) and met the trial eligibility criteria.

K Duncan NE Foster A Bishop

Purpose of the study and background

Healthcare practitioners' (HCPs) attitudes and beliefs about MSK pain influence their practice behaviour. The Pain Attitudes and Beliefs Scale (PABS), developed for use in the context of LBP, consists of two subscales (biomedical and biopsychosocial) is the most widely used measure. However, poor performance of the biopsychosocial orientation scale is attributed, in part, to inadequate conceptualisation of the orientation.


To develop a new biopsychosocial scale and adapt the PABS to assess HCPs' attitudes and beliefs about common MSK pain.

DT Zemedikun T Roberts M Artus A Guariglia J Kigozi G Wynn-Jones


This review aims to explore the methodologies used for estimating the direct and indirect costs attributed to back pain in developed countries.


Six databases were searched to uncover studies about the direct and indirect costs of back pain published in English upto November 2016. Data extracted included study characteristics, cost categories and analysis methods. Results were synthesised descriptively.

SA Harrisson R Ogollah KM Dunn NE Foster K Konstantinou


Patients with low back-related leg pain (LBLP) can present with neuropathic pain; it is not known but is often assumed that neuropathic pain persists over time. This research aimed to identify cases with neuropathic pain that persisted at short, intermediate and longer-term time points, in LBLP patients consulting in primary care.


LBLP patients in a primary care cohort study (n=606) completed the self-report version of Leeds Assessment for Neurological Symptoms and Signs (s-LANSS, score of ≥12 indicates possible neuropathic pain) at baseline, 4-months, 12-months and 3-years. S-LANSS scores and percentages of patients with score of ≥12 are described at each time-point. Multiple imputation was used to account for missing data.

A Chiarotto M Boers RA Deyo R Buchbinder TP Corbin LOP Costa NE Foster M Grotle BW Koes FM Kovacs CW Lin CG Maher AM Pearson WC Peul ML Schoene DC Turk MW van Tulder CB Terwee RW Ostelo

Background & purpose

Measurement inconsistency across clinical trials is tackled by the development of a core outcome measurement set. Four core outcome domains were recommended for clinical trials in patients with non-specific LBP (nsLBP): physical functioning, pain intensity, health-related quality of life (HRQoL), and number of deaths. This study aimed to reach consensus on core instruments to measure the first three domains.

Methods & Results

The Steering Committee overseeing this project selected 17 potential core instruments for physical functioning, three for pain intensity, and five for HRQoL. Evidence on their measurement properties in nsLBP was synthesized in three systematic reviews using COSMIN methodology. Researchers, clinicians, and patients (n = 208) were invited in a Delphi survey to seek consensus on which instruments to endorse as core. Consensus was a-priori set at 67% of participants agreeing on endorsing an instrument. Two Delphi rounds were run (response rates = 44% and 41%). Agreement was reached on endorsing the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI 2.1a) for physical functioning, the Numeric Rating Scale (NRS) for pain intensity, but not on other instruments. Several participants demanded to have free of charge core instruments. Taking these results into account, the steering committee formulated the following recommendations: ODI 2.1a or 24-item Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire for physical functioning, NRS for pain intensity, Short-Form 12 or 10-item PROMIS Global Health for HRQoL.

S Bartys MJ Stochkendahl E Buchanan


Work disability due to low back pain (LBP) is a global concern, resulting in significant healthcare costs and welfare payments. In recognition of this, recent UK policy calls for healthcare to become more ‘work-focused’. However, an ‘evidence-policy’ gap has been identified, resulting in uncertainty about how this is to be achieved. Clear, evidence-based recommendations relevant to both policy-makers and healthcare practitioners are required.


A policy theory approach combining scientific evidence with governance principles in a pragmatic manner was undertaken. This entailed extracting evidence from a recent review of the system influences on work disability due to LBP* (focused specifically on the healthcare system) and appraising it alongside the most recent review evidence on the implementation of clinical guidance, and policy material aimed at developing work-focused healthcare.

S Snidvongs RS Taylor A Ahmad S Thomson M Sharma D Fitzsimmons S Poulton V Mehta RM Langford

Purposes of the study and background

Pain of lumbar facet-joint origin is a common cause of low back pain in adults, and may lead to chronic pain and disability. At present, there is no definitive research to support the use of targeted lumbar facet-joint injections to manage this pain.

The study's objective was to assess the feasibility of carrying out a definitive study to evaluate the clinical- and cost-effectiveness of lumbar facet-joint injections compared to a sham procedure.

Summary of methods and results

This was a blinded parallel two-arm pilot randomised controlled trial. Adult patients referred to the pain and orthopaedic clinics at Barts Health NHS Trust with non-specific low back pain of at least three months' duration were considered for inclusion.

Participants who had a positive result following diagnostic single medial branch nerve blocks were randomised to receive either intra-articular lumbar facet-joint injections with steroid or a sham procedure. All participants were invited to attend a combined physical and psychological programme.

Questionnaires were used to assess a range of pain and disability-related issues. Healthcare utilisation and cost data were also assessed.

Of 628 participants screened for eligibility, 9 were randomised to receive the study intervention and 8 participants completed the study.

A Alhowimel N. Coulson K. Radford


Almost 80% of people experience low back pain at least once in their life. A quarter suffers from Nonspecific Chronic Low Back Pain (NS-CLBP), where symptoms cannot be justified radiologically. There is evidence that imaging negatively impacts outcomes (increased painkillers and doctors' visits) in NS-CLBP patients. Despite clinical guidelines recommending against the use of imaging, healthcare practitioners and patients still request imaging to explain symptoms.


Qualitative, semi-structured interviews with NS-CLBP patients, physiotherapists, and doctors conducted using purposeful sampling of 6–11 people from each group. The interviews were recorded, transcribed and analysed using framework analysis. Validity was ensured by data triangulation with participants.

SM Richardson R Rodrigues-Pinto JA Hoyland


While the human embryonic, foetal and juvenile intervertebral disc (IVD) is composed of large vacuolated notochordal cells, these morphologically distinct cells are lost with skeletal maturity being replaced by smaller nucleus pulpous cells. Notochordal cells are thought to be fundamental in maintaining IVD homeostasis and, hence, their loss in humans may be a key initiator of degeneration, leading ultimately to back pain. Therefore, it is essential to understand the human notochordal cell phenotype to enable the development of novel biological/regenerative therapies.


CD24+ notochordal cells and CD24- sclerotomal cells were sorted from enzymatically-digested human foetal spines (7.5–14 WPC, n=5) using FACS. Sorting accuracy was validated using qPCR for known notochordal markers and Affymetrix cDNA microarrays performed. Differential gene expression was confirmed (qPCR) and Interactive Pathway Analysis (IPA) performed.

SM Richardson T Hodgkinson JA Hoyland


Currently, there is a focus on the development of cell based therapies to treat intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration, particularly for regenerating/repairing the central region, the nucleus pulposus (NP). Recently, we demonstrated that GDF6 promotes NP-like differentiation in mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). However, bone marrow- (BM-MSCs) and adipose- (Ad-MSCs) showed differential responses to GDF6, with Ad-MSCs adopting a more NP-like phenotype. Here, we investigated GDF6 signalling in BM-MSCs and Ad-MSCs, with the aim to improve future IVD stem cell therapies.


GDF6 receptor expression in patient-matched BM-MSCs and Ad-MSCs (N=6) was profiled through western blot and immunocytochemistry (ICC). GDF6 signal transduction was investigated through stimulation with 100 ng ml−1 GDF6 for defined time periods. Subsequently smad1/5/9 phosphorylation and alternative non-smad pathway activation (phospho-p38; phospho-Erk1/2) was analysed (western blot, ELISA). Their role in inducing NP-like gene expression in Ad-MSCs was examined through pathway specific inhibitors.

SM Richardson T Hodgkinson B Shen A Diwan JA Hoyland


Signalling by growth differentiation factor 6 (GDF6/BMP13) has been implicated in the development and maintenance of healthy NP cell phenotypes and GDF6 mutations are associated with defective vertebral segmentation in Klippel-Feil syndrome. GDF6 may thus represent a promising biologic for treatment of IVD degeneration. This study aimed to investigate the effect of GDF6 in human NP cells and critical signal transduction pathways involved.


BMP receptor expression profile of non-degenerate and degenerate human NP cells was determined through western blot, immunofluorescence and qPCR. Phosphorylation statuses of Smad1/5/9 and non-canonical p38 MAPK and Erk1/2 were assessed in the presence/absence of pathway blockers. NP marker and matrix degrading enzyme gene expression was determined by qPCR following GDF6 stimulation. Glycosaminoglycan and collagen production were assessed through DMMB-assay and histochemical staining.

M Alotaibi R Nair K Radford


This research project explored the experiences, attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions of healthcare professionals (physiotherapists and orthopaedic surgeons) and people with chronic low back pain (CLBP) regarding the barriers and facilitators to activity normalisation following physiotherapy.


A qualitative study of the perspectives of patients, physiotherapists and orthopaedic surgeons on CLBP was undertaken in Saudi Arabia. One focus group discussion was conducted with seven patients who had received physiotherapy for CLBP, along with one focus group discussion with eight physiotherapists and seven individual interviews with orthopaedic surgeons. The focus group discussions and interviews were transcribed and analysed using framework analysis.

RJ Craddock NW Hodson SH Cartmell AA Razaaq MJ Sherratt JA Hoyland


Given the predominant functional role which aggrecan has in the intervertebral disc, particularly within the nucleus pulposus, it is necessary to evaluate the quality of aggrecan produced by cells within tissue engineered disc constructs. The aim here was to characterise the nanostructure of aggrecan synthesised by nucleus pulposus cells treated with growth differentiation factor [GDF]-6) seeded in hydrogels in comparison to aggrecan isolated from healthy disc.


Aggrecan was isolated from bovine nucleus pulposus (NP) tissue (n=3 [<18 months old]) and primary bovine NP cells cultured with (+GDF6) or without GDF6 (−GDF6) for 28 days (n=2) in type I collagen hydrogels. Isolated aggrecan monomers were visualised by atomic force microscopy and categorised as either intact (globular domains visible at both the N and C termini) or non-intact. Core protein contour length (LCP) was calculated for intact molecules. The proportion of non-intact/fragmented to intact aggrecan and the molecular area of all monomers was determined.

G Zangoni OP Thomson


Psychosocial (PS) factors have been described as the combination of the individual's cognitive, emotional and social status and they play an important role in the development and recovery from chronic low back pain (CLBP). The aims of the study where to explore/describe physiotherapists' personal beliefs and knowledge in relation to the assessment of PS factors in patients with CLBP in Italy.

Methods and results

A qualitative research design with a constructivist grounded theory approach was used for semi-structured interviews and data collection/analysis. A purposive sample of eight physiotherapists practicing in Italy and having experience with patients presenting chronic musculoskeletal problems were recruited from private clinics.

Three main categories were constructed:

Conceptions of the biopsychosocial model and its role in CLBP;

Evaluation and management of PS factors;

Barriers in the assessment and treatment.

The study revealed partial identification of these factors, limited understanding of the role they play in CLBP and lack of standardization in this area within the manipulative physiotherapy profession.

MD Humphreys SM Richardson JA Hoyland


Intervertebral disc degeneration is implicated as a major cause of chronic lower back pain. Current therapies for lower back pain are aimed purely at relieving the symptoms rather than targeting the underlying aberrant cell biology. As such focus has shifted to development of cell based alternatives. Notochordal cells are progenitors to the adult nucleus pulposus that display therapeutic potential. However, notochordal cell phenotype and suitable culture conditions for research or therapeutic application are poorly described. This study aims to develop a suitable culture system to allow comprehensive study of the notochordal phenotype.

Methods & Results

Porcine notochordal cells were isolated from 6 week post natal discs using dissection and enzymatic digestion and cultured in vitro under different conditions: (1)DMEM vs αMEM (2)laminin-521, fibronectin, gelatin and untreated tissue culture plastic (3)2% 02 vs normoxia (4)αMEM (300 mOsm/L) vs αMEM (400 mOsm/L). Notochordal cells were cultured in alginate beads as a control. Adherence, cell viability, morphology and expression of known notochordal markers (CD24, KRT8, KRT18, KRT19 and T) were assessed throughout the culture period. Use of αMEM media and laminin-521 coated surfaces displayed the greatest cell adherence, viability and retention of notochordal cell morphology and gene expression, which was further enhanced through culture in hypoxia and hyperosmolar media mimicking the intervertebral disc niche.

H Birkinshaw B Bartlam B Saunders J Hill

Purpose of Study and Background

Population ageing will facilitate an increase in health problems common in older adults, such as musculoskeletal conditions. Musculoskeletal conditions are the fourth largest contributor to disease burden in older adults; affecting quality of life, physical activity, mental wellbeing and independence. Therefore primary care health services must provide appropriate and efficacious management and treatment. However there are a number of complexities specific to older adults that are essential to address.

Methods and Results

In order to identify these complexities, a review of the background literature was undertaken in addition to a Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement (PPIE) session. The PPIE group consisted of eight older adults who experience chronic musculoskeletal pain. This session was used to discuss and explore what factors are important to consider in GP consultations for musculoskeletal pain for older adults, in addition to those identified through background literature. A number of factors were highlighted through these methods, including the difference in mood and aspirations for older adults; taking a holistic approach; the impact of comorbidities; whether the GP is listening and ‘on the same wavelength’, and older adults' expectations regarding their pain and the consultation.

G Sharp


Each patient received Cognitive Reassurance appropriate for and proportionate to his/her capacity through evidence informed explanation/education to enhance effective self-care and realistic self-management.

Background and pathway

Changes to back and neck pain commissioning by our CCG required GPs not to refer to manual therapy until six weeks and upgrade GP care beyond that previous.

100 consecutive patients requesting GP appointment reporting back/neck pain were directed to a pragmatic service provided by an experienced manual therapy practitioner. Cognitive Reassurance reflecting evidenced informed biopsychosocial and salutogenic thinking was given at initial consultation/assessment. Patients were contacted at 10 and 20 days to ascertain their status. One sub-group suggested an opportunity for long-term follow-up.

Pilot Objectives

Providing Cognitive Reassurance for achieving greater levels of patient engagement with self-management

Demonstrate full clinical triage by primary care providers is effective/practical

Demonstrate a need for appropriate contracting models


Outcomes 100 patients

Wait time 2d
Inappropriate self-referral directed to GPs 25%
DNAs 7%
Referral for medication – 28%
Prescribed AQP manual therapy 35%

Outcomes 36 patients decided at 20 days no further treatment needed

Treatments averaged1.8/pt (Range 0–4)
Patients deciding no treatment needed beyond initial consultation4%
Patients requesting further consultation during the 12 months following:4%

A Rushton DW Evans N Middlebrook N Heneghan D Falla


Pain is an expected and appropriate experience following traumatic musculoskeletal injury. By contrast, chronic pain and disability are unhelpful yet common sequelae of trauma-related injuries. Presently, the mechanisms that underlie the transition from acute to chronic disabling post-traumatic pain are not fully understood. The aim of this study is to identify prognostic factors for risk of developing chronic pain and disability following acute musculoskeletal trauma.


A prospective observational study will recruit two temporally staggered cohorts (n=250 each cohort; 10 cases per candidate predictor) of consecutive acute musculoskeletal trauma patients aged ≥16 years, who are emergency admissions into a Major Trauma Centre in the United Kingdom, with an episode inception defined as the traumatic event. The first cohort will identify prognostic factors to develop a screening tool to predict development of chronic and disabling pain, and the second will allow evaluation of the predictive performance of the tool (validation). The outcome being predicted is an individual's absolute risk of poor outcome measured at 6-months follow-up using the Chronic Pain Grade Scale (poor outcome ≥Grade II). Candidate predictors encompass the four primary mechanisms of pain: nociceptive (e.g. injury characteristics), neuropathic (e.g. painDETECT), inflammatory (biomarkers), and central hypersensitivity (e.g. quantitative sensory testing). Concurrently, patient-reported outcome measures will assess general health and psychosocial factors. Risk of poor outcome will be calculated using multiple variable regression analysis.

CA Fawkes R Froud D Carnes

Background to the study

The use of Patient Reported Outcome Measures (PROMs) to measure effectiveness of care, and supporting patient management is being advocated increasingly. When evaluating outcome it is important to identify a PROM with good measurement properties.

Purpose of the study

To review the measurement properties of the low back and neck versions of the Bournemouth Questionnaire.