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Volume 99-B, Issue SUPP_10 May 2017 The Society for Back Pain Research (SBPR) - Annual General Meeting 2016

S Bartys P Fredericksen K Burton T Bendix


Current policy and practice aimed at tackling work disability due to low back pain is largely aligned with the Psychosocial Flags Framework, which focuses on addressing individual beliefs and behaviours (yellow and blue flags). However, our understanding of the systemic and contextual factors (black flags) that are also proposed to act as obstacles within this Framework is under-represented, resulting in a disproportionate evidence base and suboptimal interventions.


A ‘best-evidence’ synthesis was conducted to collate the evidence on those ‘black flags’ proposed to be the most important: compensatory systems (worker's compensation and disability benefits), healthcare provider systems and ‘significant others’ (spouse/partner/close family members). A systematic search of scientific and grey literature databases was performed, and the validity and merit of the available evidence was assessed using a system adapted from previous large-scale policy reviews conducted in this field.

PW Green MM Murray AJ Coxon CG Ryan CG Greenough


The BACK To Health programme is part of the wider North of England back pain and radicular pain pathway. The purpose of this programme is to provide a CPPP approach based on the NICE guidelines CG88 for those with back pain that has not responded to early management and simpler therapies. The purpose of this study is to present preliminary results of this programme.


Referral onto the programme occurred through triage and treat practitioners or consultant clinics. A total of 44 patients were referred, with 31 attending the programme. The programme was delivered as a 3 week residential programme, with patients present 9am-5pm Monday to Thursday. A MDT provided an intense programme consisting of education, physical exercise, practical coping strategies and group discussion. The work has received ethical approval from the School of Health and Social Care Research Ethics and Governance committee at Teesside University.

G Wynne-Jones M Artus A Bishop SA Lawton M Lewis C Main G Sowden S Wathall AK Burton D van der Windt EM Hay


Early intervention is advocated to prevent long-term work absence due to musculoskeletal (MSK) pain. The SWAP trial tested whether adding a vocational advice (VA) service to best current care led to fewer days work absence over 4 months.


The SWAP trial was a cluster randomised controlled trial in 6 general practices, 3 randomised to best current care (control), 3 randomised to best current care and the VA service (intervention). Patients were ≥18 years, absent from work ≤6 months or struggling at work due to MSK pain. Primary outcome was number of days absent over 4 months. Exploratory subgroup analyses examined whether the effect was larger for patients with spinal pain compared to other MSK pain.

M Angus R Verma S Mohammad I Siddique V Dickens G Rawlinson


Low back pain (LBP) with or without leg pain, is one of the most common causes of pain and disability and a frequent cause of attendance to emergency departments (ED). Increasing numbers of patients create a difficult challenge for clinicians to effectively and appropriately manage patients with LBP in an urgent care setting.


To improve the management of atraumatic spinal pain patients admitted onto the emergency assessment unit (EAU) thus improving quality of care, reducing bed stay and facilitating appropriate discharge and follow-up within an interdisciplinary model.

J Marley S McDonough MA Tully B Bunting J O'Hanlon A Porter-Armstrong


Chronic musculoskeletal pain increases an individual's risk of developing many chronic diseases and the risk of all-cause early mortality. There is irrefutable evidence supporting the role of physical activity (PA) in reducing these risks. Sustaining changes to PA behaviours is challenging and efforts are needed to understand the barriers and facilitators of change. Understanding these factors is a vital step in developing behaviour change interventions.


Explore barriers and facilitators to engaging in PA in adults accessing pain services.

Explore barriers and facilitators to promoting PA by healthcare professionals, exercise professionals and charity staff/expert patients.

JP Roe P Godbole N Jordan-Mahy A Alderson C Le Maitre


Auxetic materials have a negative poisons ratio, and a number of native biological tissues are proposed to possess auxetic properties. One such tissue is annulus fibrosus (AF), the fibrous outer layers of the intervertebral disc (IVD). However, few studies to date have investigated the potential of these materials as tissue engineering scaffolds. Here we describe the potential of manually converted polyurethane (PU) foams as three dimensional cellular scaffolds for AF repair.


Rat MSCs were seeded onto fibronectin coated auxetic foams at a cell density of 6.4 × 103 cells/mm3, and cultured for up to 3 weeks. Cell viability was assessed throughout culture and following culture scanning electron microscopy (SEM) was used to assess morphological characteristics. Histological assessment was performed to assess production of matrix proteins.

JP Woodman K Ballard L Glover

Background and objectives

The Alexander Technique (AT) is a self-care method usually taught in one-to-one lessons. AT lessons have been shown to be helpful in managing long-term health-related conditions (Int J Clin Pract 2012;66:98−112). This systematic review aims to draw together evidence of the effectiveness of AT lessons in managing musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions, with empirically based evidence of physiological changes following AT training, to provide a putative theoretical explanation for the observed benefits of Alexander lessons.

Methods and results

Systematic searches of a range of databases were undertaken to identify prospective studies evaluating AT instruction for any musculoskeletal condition, using PICO criteria, and for studies assessing the physiological effects of AT training. Citations (N=332) were assessed and seven MSK intervention studies were included for further analysis. In two large well-designed randomised controlled trials, AT lessons led to significant long-term (1 year) reductions in pain and incapacity caused by chronic back or neck pain (usual GP-led care comparator). Three smaller RCTs in chronic back and neck pain, respectively, and a pain clinic service evaluation broadly supported these findings. A pilot study reported preliminary evidence for pain reduction in knee osteoarthritis patients. Further studies showed significant improvements in general coordination, walking gait, motor control and balance, possibly resulting from improved postural muscle tone regulation and adaptability, in people with extensive AT training.

J Draper-Rodi S Vogel A Bishop

A statement of the purposes of the study and background

The biopsychosocial (BPS) model is recommended for managing non-specific low back pain (NSLBP) but the best method for teaching the BPS model is unclear. E-learning is a promising alternative to face-to-face methods.

This study was a pilot randomised controlled trial (RCT) with embedded interview study to investigate the feasibility of conducting a main RCT and to explore the impact of an BPS for NSLBP e-learning programme on experienced practitioners' attitudes to back pain.

A summary of the methods used and the results

Mixed methods evaluated the impact of an evidence-based e-learning programme on participants' attitudes to back pain. A pilot RCT assessed 45 experienced osteopaths' attitudes before and after the intervention, using the Pain Attitudes and Beliefs Scale (PABS) and the Attitudes to Back Pain Scale (ABS). The qualitative study explored 9 participants' views on the e-learning programme and possible impact on their clinical practice.

91% of participants completed the course and the overall satisfaction was very high. Participants' views on the BPS model ranged between not being structural enough, already done and transformative. The e-learning programme was well accepted. It would be feasible to run a main study using the same recruitment procedures, eligibility criteria, randomisation procedure, consent process, data collection and outcome measures.

S Greenhalgh J Selfe

Purposes of the study and background

A Qualitative study exploring patient's experience of Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES) was carried out. The aim of this study was to identify how Cauda Equina Syndrome symptoms may be more effectively identified by patients and their clinician. Patient's symptoms and experiences of their condition were explored, including issues associated with bladder, bowel and sexual function

A summary of the methods used and the results.

Via in-depth questions, participants were enabled to share their stories within a confidential setting. Narrative analysis of the patient's story allowed symptom progression and recognition to be explored and language used by participants themselves to describe symptoms identified. Seven themes emerged from the study. The findings were used to develop clinical tools to assist in the consultation process of potential CES patients. Finally the tools were validated by CES patients and clinicians prior to use within a clinical setting


The findings of this research have been utilised, working with patients as partners, to establish clear, sensitive and understandable language to use during clinical questioning of potential CES patients. This patient choice of language for sensitive questions has been replicated on a clinical cue card to use during the consultation and on a credit card sized leaflet to give to patients. Working with patients, clear methods of communication have been developed surrounding potentially embarrassing but critical symptoms in order to assist ‘bringing the individual patient and the surgical team together at the earliest practical opportunity’

No conflicts of interest

Source of funding; Physiotherapy Research Foundation (Part of the CSP Charitable Trust registered charity 279882)

MJ Anderton L Hoggett M Khatri


PROMs have become an integral assessment tool of clinical effectiveness and patient satisfaction. To date, PROMs for lumbar discectomy are not an NHS requirement, although voluntary collection via the British Spine Registry is encouraged. Despite this, PROMs for day case microdiscectomy is scarcely reported. We present PROMs for day case microdiscectomy at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals.


To review PROMs to quantify leg pain, back pain, EQ5D and ODI scores.

Evaluate PROMs data collection compliance.

M Al-Abbadey K Bradbury D Carnes BD Dimitrov C Fawkes J Foster G Lewith H MacPherson L Roberts L Parry L Yardley F L Bishop

Purpose and Background

The MOCAM study is a major prospective questionnaire-based study investigating the relationship between low back pain (LBP) patient outcomes and non-specific treatment components, i.e., therapeutic relationship, healthcare environment, incidental treatment characteristics, patients' beliefs and practitioners' beliefs. Participating acupuncturists, osteopaths, and physiotherapists from the NHS and private sector have been asked to recruit at least 10 patients into the study. This paper aims to analyse current recruitment rates from MOCAM and identify barriers and facilitators to effective recruitment.

Methods and Results

Recruitment has taken place over 15 months. Invitation letters or emails were sent to individual practitioners identified using online search tools and professional networks. Recruitment rates were analysed descriptively. Within the private sector, response rates (number participating/number invited) are: acupuncturists 3% (49/1561), osteopaths 6% (53/912), physiotherapists 4% (40/1048). Private sector practitioners have each recruited on average 1, 4, and 2 patients into the study respectively. Within the NHS, the response rates are: acupuncturists 100% (2/2), osteopaths 8% (1/13), physiotherapists 63% (44/70). NHS practitioners have each recruited on average 4, 3, and 2 patients respectively.

CA Young A D L Baker

Background and purpose of the study

Dropped Head Syndrome (DHS) is characterized by a chin on chest flexion neck deformity that is passively correctible. The condition is rare and literature on surgical and conservative management is focused on case studies and theoretical evidence.

Purpose of the study

The purpose of this study was to investigate the value of physiotherapy in the treatment of DHS by case series analysis.

JD Graham JW Heywood

Purpose and background

A review of secondary healthcare provision for civilians suffering persistent pain and living in the British Forces Germany (BFG) community was carried out in order to better inform referral from primary care. This population consists mostly of British nationals each with differing linguistic skills and cultural backgrounds. Patients may be referred to Evangelisches Krankenhaus Bielefeld (EvKB) in Germany or to Guys and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust (GSTT) in the UK. It was considered important to identify potential language or cultural-related barriers to improve decision making when considering where best to refer for a pain management programme (PMP).


Clinical visits undertaken at GSTT and EvKB involved observation of clinical activities, collection of documentation and informal staff discussions. Data were organised into common themes and categorised to provide information for written reflective accounts on each visit.

K Wellington JD Taylor M Khatri

Purpose of Study/Background

To identify whether patients were satisfied with the overall educational component of the specialist nurse (CNS)/occupational therapist (OT) led pre-operative assessment clinic in order to identify areas which required improvement.

The pre-operative specialist nurse led clinic was set up in 2002. The aim was to provide high quality information to patients undergoing elective spinal surgery in order to manage expectations and optimise post-operative recovery. Initially the clinic was specialist nurse led however, in 2006 occupational therapy input was introduced in order to provide an increased depth of information in regard to function and activities of daily living post operatively. In addition this has allowed assistive equipment to be provided pre-operatively. The format of this clinic has enhanced the patient's journey by facilitating reduced length of stay and more timely discharge.


A questionnaire was forwarded to a random sample of two hundred patients who attended for pre-operative assessment in the twelve-month period between April 2014 & March 2015. Sixty questionnaires were returned (30% response rate).

R Poyton I Cowell T Hall P Drew G Murtagh A McGregor


Persistent low back and leg pain is a common and highly disabling musculoskeletal condition. Many patients seek the opinion of a neurosurgeon with a view to surgical intervention. Few data are available which document the experiences of patients at these consultations.


To investigate the experiences of patients seeking a neurosurgical opinion for back and leg pain.

SA Harrisson R Ogollah KM Dunn NE Foster K Konstantinou

Purpose of study and background

Neuropathic pain is a challenging pain syndrome to manage. Low back-related leg pain (LBLP) is clinically diagnosed as either sciatica or referred leg pain and sciatica is often assumed to be neuropathic. Our aim was to describe the prevalence and characteristics of neuropathic pain in LBLP patients.


Analysis of cross-sectional data from a prospective, primary care cohort of 609 LBLP patients. Patients completed questionnaires, and received clinical assessment including MRI. Neuropathic characteristics (NC) were measured using the self-report version of the Leeds Assessment of Neuropathic Symptoms and Signs scale (SLANSS; score of ≥12 indicates pain with NC).

S Stynes K Konstantinou R Ogollah EM Hay KM Dunn


Low back-related leg pain (LBLP) is clinically diagnosed as referred leg pain or sciatica. Within the spectrum of LBLP there may be unrecognised subgroups of patients. This study aimed to identify and describe clusters of LBLP patients using latent class analysis (LCA).


The study population were 609 LBLP primary care consulters. Variables from clinical assessment were included in the LCA. Characteristics of the statistically identified clusters were described and compared to the clinically defined groups of LBLP patients.

JA Deane E Papi ATM Phillips AH McGregor


Low back pain (LBP) is the top leading global cause of years lived with disability. In order to examine LBP, researchers have typically viewed the spine in isolation. Clinically, it is imperative that the lower limbs are also considered. The aim of this study was to design a holistic and reliable multi-segmental kinematic model of the spine and lower limbs.


The spine was modelled according to easily identifiable anatomical landmarks, including upper thoracic (T1-T6), lower thoracic (T7-T12) and lumbar (L1-L5) segments. Pelvis, thigh, shank and foot segments were included. A 10-camera 3D motion capture system was used to track retro-reflective markers, which were used to define each segment of 10 healthy participants as they walked 3 times at a comfortable speed over a 6km walkway. The relative peak angles between each segment were calculated using the Joint Coordinate System convention and Intraclass Correlation Coefficients (ICCs) were used to determine intra-rater and inter-rater reliability (between an experienced clinician and biomechanical scientist).

JA Deane L Joyce C Wang C Wiles A Lim PH Strutton AH McGregor


The usefulness of markers of non-specific low back pain (NSLBP), including MRI derived measurements of cross-sectional area (CSA) and functional CSA (FCSA, fat free muscle area) of the lumbar musculature, is in doubt. To our knowledge, such markers remain unexplored in Lumbar Disc Degeneration (LDD), which is significantly associated with NSLBP, Modic change and symptom recurrence. This exploratory 3.0-T MRI study addresses this shortfall by comparing asymmetry and composition in asymptomatic older adults with and without Modic change.


A sample of 21 healthy, asymptomatic subjects participated (mean age 56.9 years). T2-weighted axial lumbar images were obtained (L3/L4 to L5/S1), with slices oriented through the centre of each disc. Scans were examined by a Consultant MRI specialist and divided into 2 groups dependent on Modic presence (M) or absence (NM). Bilateral measurements of the CSA and FCSA of the erector spinae, multifidus, psoas major and quadratus lumborum were made using Image-J software. Muscle composition was determined using the equation [(FCSA/CSA)*100] and asymmetry using the equation [(Largest FCSA-smallest FCSA)/largest FCSA*100]. Data were analysed using Mann-Whitney U tests (p value set at). Intrarater reliability was examined using Intraclass Correlations (ICCs).

VE Awuzudike S.M. Fabiane M.B. Freidin FMK Williams


A single degenerate intervertebral disc is suggested to promote rapid degeneration in its adjacent discs. We validated this hypothesis using discordant co-twin case-control design.


185 pairs of twins were selected from the TwinsUK database having cervical MRI scans at baseline and at follow-up, after 10 years. Isolated disc degeneration (IDD) was diagnosed in subjects having severe loss in disc height (graded 3/3) in a single disc, whilst discs immediately adjacent manifested little or no degeneration (graded 0 or 1). The controls' ‘adjacent discs’ were considered at the same levels as their affected co-twins.

A Thorpe L Vickers C Sammon CL Le Maitre


Degeneration of the intervertebral disc (IVD) is a major cause of Low back pain. We have recently reported a novel, injectable liquid L-pNIPAM-co-DMAc hydrogel (NPgel), which promote differentiation of MSCs to nucleus pulposus (NP) cells without the need for additional growth factors. Here, we investigated the behaviour of hMSCs incorporated within the hydrogel injected into NP tissue.


hMSCs were injected either alone or within NPgel, into bovine NP tissue explants and maintained at 5% O2 for up to 6wks. Media alone and acellular NPgel were also injected into NP explants to serve as controls. Cell viability was assessed by Caspase 3 immunohistochemistry and the phenotype of injected hMSC was assessed by histology and immunohistochemistry. Mechanical properties were also assessed via dynamic mechanical analysis (DMA).

F Manning C Vergari J Mansfield J Meakin P Winlove D Sharp

Purpose of study

This study aims to establish the micro-structure of the vertebral endplate and its interface with the adjacent bone and disc in fresh, unstained tissue so that the structure can be related to normal and pathological function.


The endplate is key in both the mechanics, anchoring and nutrition of the disc. Understanding the detailed structure of the normal and pathological endplate is important for understanding how it achieves its functions.

Advancements in imaging technology continually allow for greater understanding of biological structures. The development of two-photon fluorescence (TPF) combined with second harmonic generation (SHG), allows for the imaging of relatively thick, fresh samples without the need for staining.

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


The intervertebral disc (IVD) is a highly hydrated tissue which is reduced during degeneration leading to loss of function. Aquaporins (AQP) are a family of 13 (AQP0-12) transmembrane channel proteins that selectively allow the passage of water and other small molecules in and out of cells and are responsible for maintaining water homeostasis. AQP1, 2, 3 and 5 have been identified in the IVD. Here gene and protein expression of all 13 AQPs was investigated in a large cohort of human IVDs to investigate expression during IVD degeneration.


Gene expression of all 13 AQPs was investigated in non-degenerate and degenerate tissue from 102 human NP samples using RT-qPCR. AQPs which were expressed at gene level were further investigated in 30 IVD samples by Immunohistochemistry.

J Snuggs N Chiverton A Cole R Michael R Bunning M Conner CL Le Maitre


Within the intervertebral disc (IVD), nucleus pulposus (NP) cells reside within a unique microenvironment. Factors such as hypoxia, osmolality, pH and the presence of cytokines all dictate the function of NP cells and as such the cells must adapt to their environment to survive. Previously we have identified the expression of aquaporins (AQP) within human IVD tissue. AQPs allow the movement of water across the cell membrane and are important in cellular homeostasis. Here we investigated how AQP gene expression was regulated by the microenvironment of the IVD.


Human NP cells were cultured in alginate beads prior to cytokine, osmolality, pH and hypoxia treatments and subsequent RT-qPCR to assess regulation of AQP gene expression.

L Vickers AA Thorpe C Sammon CL Le Maitre


Current strategies to treat back pain address the symptoms but not the underlying cause. Here we are investigating a novel hydrogel material (NPgel) which can promote MSC differentiation to Nucleus pulposus cells. Current in vitro studies have only explored conditions that mimic the native disc microenvironment. Here, we aim to determine the stem cells regenerative capacity under conditions that mimic the degenerate environment seen during disc degeneration.


hMSCs were encapsulated in NPgel and cultured for 4 weeks under hypoxia (5%) with ± calcium (2.5mM and 5.0mM CaCl2), IL-1β and TNFα either individually or in combination to mimic the degenerate microenvironment. Cell viability was assessed by Alamar blue assay. Histological and immunohistochemical analysis investigated altered matrix and matrix degrading enzyme expression.

L Hoggett MJ Anderton M Khatri


Advances in surgical and anesthetic technique have resulted in a reducing length of stay for lumbar decompression, with the first day case procedure published in the literature in 1980. Current evidence suggests day case surgery is associated with improved patient satisfaction, faster recovery, reduced infection rates and financial savings. Following the introduction of a locally agreed day case protocol for lumbar microdiscectomy, we reviewed our 30-day postoperative complication rates.


To review postoperative complication rates for patients who underwent day case primary lumbar microdiscectomy.

TF Fekete D Haschtmann H-J Becker FS Kleinstück F Porchet D Jeszenszky P Banczerowski AF Mannion


Patient-rated measures are the gold standard for assessing spine surgery outcomes, but there is no consensus on the appropriate timing of follow-up. Journals often demand a minimum 2-year follow-up, but the indiscriminate application of this principle may not be warranted. We examined the course of change in patient outcomes up to 5 years postoperatively.


The data from 3′334 consecutive patients (1′789 women, 1′545 men; aged 61±15 years) undergoing first-time surgery between 1.1.2005 and 31.12.2010 for differing lumbar degenerative disorders were evaluated. The Core Outcome Measures Index (COMI) was completed by 3′124 (94%) patients preoperatively, 3′164 (95%) at 3 months follow-up, 3′153 (95%) at 1 year, 3′112 (93%) at 2 years, and 2′897 (87%) at 5 years. 2′502 (75%) completed COMI at all five timepoints.

P Zehnder TF Fekete E Aghayev FS Kleinstück H-J Becker T Pigott P Banczerowski AF Mannion


Previous surgery is known to increase the risk of complications during spine surgery, but few studies have quantified the dose-response effect using multivariate models to account for confounders. We quantified the effect of the number of prior spine surgeries on perioperative complications in patients undergoing surgery for lumbar degenerative disorders.


We included data from 4′940 patients documented in Eurospine's Spine Tango Registry from 2004 to 2015. Medical history and surgical details were documented on the Tango Surgery form, as were surgical and general medical complications arising between admission and discharge. Multiple logistic regression models were built to investigate the relationship between the number of any previous surgeries and the presence of a perioperative complication, controlling for other potential confounders (age, sex, smoking, BMI, comorbidity, number of vertebral levels affected).