It was previously assumed that low back pain (LBP) is a disorder that can be classified as acute, subacute and chronic. Lately, the opinion seems to have veered towards a concept of it being a more recurrent or cyclic condition. Interestingly, a recent review of the literature indicated that LBP in the general population is a rather stable condition, characterized as either being present or absent. However, only one of the reviewed studies had used frequent data collection, which would be necessary when studying detailed course patterns over time. It was the purpose of this study to see, if it was possible to identify whether LBP, when present, is rather episodic or chronic/persistent. Further, we wanted to see if it was possible to describe any specific course profiles of LBP in the general population.
In all, 293 49/50-yr old Danes, who previously participated in a population-based study on LBP were invited to respond to 26 fortnightly text-messages over one year, each time asking them the number of days they had been bothered by LBP in the past two weeks. The course patterns for these individuals were identified through manual analysis, by observing the interplay between non-episodes and episodes of LBP. A non-episode of LBP was defined as a period of at least one month without LBP as proposed by de Vet et al. A fortnight with at least one day of pain was defined as a pain fortnight (FN). At least one pain FN surrounded by a non-episode on each side was defined as an episode of LBP. After some preliminary observations of the spread of data, episodes were further classified as brief (consisting of only one pain FN) or longer (if there were at least 2 pain FNs in a row). An episode of at least 6 pain FNs in a row (i.e. 3 months) was defined as a long-lasting episode.
In all, 261 study subjects were included in the analyses, for which 7 distinct LBP subsets could be identified. These could be grouped into three major clusters; those mainly without LBP (35%), those with episodic LBP (30%) and those with persistent LBP (35%). There was a positive association between number of episodes and their duration.
In this study population, consisting of 50-yr old persons from the general population, LBP, when present, could be classified as either ‘episodic’ or ‘mainly persistent’. About one third was mainly LBP-free throughout the year of study. More information is needed in relation to their relative proportions in various populations and the clinical relevance of these subgroups.
Low back pain; Epidemiology; Trajectories; Subgroups; Episodes; Text-messages
All clinicians of today know that scientific evidence is the base on which clinical practice should rest. However, this is not always easy, in particular in those disciplines, where the evidence is scarce. Although the last decades have brought an impressive production of research that is of interest to chiropractors, there are still many areas such as diagnosis, prognosis, choice of treatment, and management that have not been subjected to extensive scrutiny.
In this paper we argue that a simple system consisting of three questions will help clinicians deal with some of the complexities of clinical practice, in particular what to do when clear clinical evidence is lacking. Question 1 asks: are there objectively tested facts to support the concept? Question 2: are the concepts that form the basis for this clinical act or decision based on scientifically acceptable concepts? And question three; is the concept based on long-term and widely accepted experience? This method that we call the “Traffic Light System” can be applied to most clinical processes.
We explain how the Traffic Light System can be used as a simple framework to help chiropractors make clinical decisions in a simple and lucid manner. We do this by explaining the roles of biological plausibility and clinical experience and how they should be weighted in relation to scientific evidence in the clinical decision making process, and in particular how to proceed, when evidence is missing.
Chiropractic; Evidence-based practice; Biological plausibility
Practice-based research is a challenge as clinicians are busy with their patients and any participation in research activities will be secondary to the needs of the patients and the clinic. As a result, it is difficult to obtain high compliance among clinicians. A method to enhance compliance in multicentre practice-based research has been developed and refined for use in the chiropractic setting and possibly also by other researchers in different settings.
This manual provides a stringent step-by-step approach for conducting clinic-based research. It describes the competencies and requirements of an effective working group, how to recruit participating clinicians and how to empower, encourage and support these clinicians to obtain good compliance.
The main advantage of the method is the high compliance of participating clinicians compared to many other clinical studies. Difficulties with the method are described and suggestions for solutions are presented.
This manual is a description of a method that may be of use for clinical researchers in the chiropractic setting.
Clinical study; Compliance; Multicentre
Most patients in the secondary care sector consulting for low back pain (LBP) seem to have a more or less constant course of pain during the ensuing year. Fewer patients with LBP in the primary care sector report continual pain over a one-year period. However, not much is known about the long-term course of LBP in the general population. A systematic critical literature review was undertaken in order to study the natural course of LBP over time in the general population.
A search of articles was performed in Pubmed, Cinahl and Psychinfo using the search terms ‘epidemiology’; ‘low back pain’ or ‘back pain’; ‘prospective study’ or ‘longitudinal study’; ‘follow-up’, ‘natural course’, ‘course’ or ‘natural history’; ‘general population’ or ‘working population’. Inclusion criteria were that one of the objectives was to study the course of (L)BP in the adult population, that the period of follow-up was at least 3 months, and that there were three points of observation or more. The review was undertaken by two independent reviewers using three checklists relating to description of studies, quality and outcomes. The course of LBP was established in relation to those who, at baseline, were reported not to have LBP or to have LBP. Would this course be stable, fluctuating, worsening, or improving over time? A synthesis of results in relation to common patterns was presented in a table and interpreted in a narrative form.
Eight articles were included. Articles were different on time span, the number of surveys, and the definition of LBP. In six of the seven relevant studies, for those with no LBP at baseline, relatively substantial stable subgroups of people who continued to be LBP free were identified. In six of the seven relevant studies, definite stable subgroups of continued LBP were noted and improvement (becoming pain free) was never reported to be a common finding.
The status of LBP in individuals of the general population appears to be relatively stable over time, perhaps particularly so for those without LBP at baseline.
Low back pain; Course; General population; Prospective study; Review
An increasingly passive life-style in the Western World has led to a rise in life-style related disorders. This is a major concern for all segments of society. The county council of the municipality of Svendborg in Denmark, created six Sport Schools with increased levels of suitable physical activities, which made it possible to study the health outcomes in these children whilst comparing them to children who attended the ‘normal’ schools of the region using the design of a “natural experiment”.
Children from the age of 6 till the age of 10, who accepted to be included in the monitoring process, were surveyed at baseline with questionnaires, physical examinations and physical and biological testing, including DXA scans. The physical examination and testing was repeated during the early stage of the study. Every week over the whole study period, the children will be followed with an automated mobile phone text message (SMS-Track) asking questions on their leisure time sports activities and the presence of any musculoskeletal problems. Children who report any such problems are monitored individually by health care personnel. Data are collected on demography, health habits and attitudes, physical characteristics, physical activity using accelerometers, motor performance, fitness, bone health, life-style disorders, injuries and musculoskeletal problems. Data collection will continue at least once a year until the children reach grade 9.
This project is embedded in a local community, which set up the intervention (The Sport Schools) and thereafter invited researchers to provide documentation and evaluation. Sport schools are well matched with the ‘normal’ schools, making comparisons between these suitable. However, subgroups that would be specifically targeted in lifestyle intervention studies (such as the definitely obese) could be relatively small. Therefore, results specific to minority groups may be diluted. Nonetheless, the many rigorously collected data will make it possible to study, for example, the general effect that different levels of physical activity may have on various health conditions and on proxy measures of life-style conditions. Specifically, it will help answer the question on whether increased physical activity in school has a positive effect on health in children.
Because maintenance care (MC) is frequently used by chiropractors in the management of patients with back pain, it is necessary to define the rationale, frequency and indications for MC consultations, and the contents of such consultations. The objectives of the two studies described in this article are: i) to determine the typical spacing between visits for MC patients and to compare MC and non-MC patients, ii) to describe the content of the MC consultation and to compare MC and non-MC patients and iii) to investigate the purposes of the MC program.
In two studies, chiropractors who accepted the MC paradigm were invited to assist with the data collection. In study 1, patients seen by seven different chiropractors were observed by two chiropractic students. They noted the contents of the observed consultations. In study 2, ten chiropractors invited their MC patients to participate in an anonymous survey. Participants filled in a one page questionnaire containing questions on their view of the purposes and contents of their MC consultations. In addition, information was obtained on the duration between appointments in both studies.
There were 178 valid records in study 1, and in study 2 the number of questionnaires received was 373. The time interval between MC visits was close to nine weeks and for non-MC consultations it was two weeks.
The content of the consultations in study 1 was similar for MC and non-MC patients with treatment being the most time-consuming element followed by history taking/examination. MC consultations were slightly shorter than non-MC consultations.
In study 2, the most common activities reported to have taken place were history taking and manipulative therapy. The most commonly reported purposes were to prevent recurring problems, to maintain best possible function and /or to stay as pain free as possible.
The results from these two studies indicate that MC consultations commonly take place with around two months intervals, and that history taking, examination and treatment are as important components in MC as in non-MC consultations. Further, the results demonstrate that most patients consider the goal to be secondary or tertiary prevention.
Chiropractic; Maintenance care; Back pain; Consultation
It is generally believed that the prevalence of back pain increases with age and as the proportion of elderly will keep rising we may be facing serious public health concerns in the future.
The aim of this systematic literature review is to establish whether back pain (i.e. neck, mid-back and/or low back pain) becomes increasingly common in the older population, specifically to study 1) whether there is a significant increase in the prevalence of back pain after middle age, and 2) whether there is a significant gradually increasing prevalence of back pain with continued old age.
A systematic literature search was conducted in Pubmed on articles in English, published between January 2000 and July 2011. Non-clinical studies from the developed countries with prevalence estimates on elderly people (60+) on any type of self-reported back pain and on different age groups with adequate sample sizes were included in the review. The included articles were extracted for information by two independent reviewers.
A total of 12 articles were included covering the entire spine. Neck pain was studied nine times, low back pain eight times, back pain three times, upper back two times and neck/shoulders once. All studies showed no significant increase of back pain with age, neither when passing from middle age (i.e. 45+ years of age) into the sixties, nor later in life. In contrast, most studies reported a decline for the oldest group.
Back pain is no more common in the elderly population (>60 years) when compared to the middle age population. Back pain does not increase with increasing age, but seems to decline in the oldest people.
Systematic literature review; Elderly population; Back pain; Low back pain; Neck pain
Although there is evidence that spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) can reduce pain, the mechanisms involved are not well established. There is a need to review the scientific literature to establish the evidence-base for the reduction of pain following SMT.
To determine if SMT can reduce experimentally induced pain, and if so, if the effect is i) only at the level of the treated spinal segment, ii) broader but in the same general region as SMT is performed, or iii) systemic.
A systematic critical literature review.
A systematic search was performed for experimental studies on healthy volunteers and people without chronic syndromes, in which the immediate effect of SMT was tested. Articles selected were reviewed blindly by two authors. A summary quality score was calculated to indicate level of manuscript quality. Outcome was considered positive if the pain-reducing effect was statistically significant. Separate evidence tables were constructed with information relevant to each research question. Results were interpreted taking into account their manuscript quality.
Twenty-two articles were included, describing 43 experiments, primarily on pain produced by pressure (n = 27) or temperature (n = 9). Their quality was generally moderate. A hypoalgesic effect was shown in 19/27 experiments on pressure pain, produced by pressure in 3/9 on pain produced by temperature and in 6/7 tests on pain induced by other measures. Second pain provoked by temperature seems to respond to SMT but not first pain. Most studies revealed a local or regional hypoalgesic effect whereas a systematic effect was unclear. Manipulation of a “restricted motion segment” (“manipulable lesion”) seemed not to be essential to analgesia. In relation to outcome, there was no discernible difference between studies with higher vs. lower quality scores.
These results indicate that SMT has a direct local/regional hypoalgesic effect on experimental pain for some types of stimuli. Further research is needed to determine i) if there is also a systemic effect, ii) the exact mechanisms by which SMT attenuates pain, and iii) whether this response is clinically significant.
Spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) has been shown to have an effect on spine-related pain, both clinically and in experimentally induced pain. However, it is unclear if it has an immediate noticeable biomechanical effect on spinal motion that can be measured in terms of an increased range of motion (ROM).
To assess the quality of the literature and to determine whether or not SMT is associated with an immediate increase in ROM.
A systematic critical literature review.
Systematic searches were performed in Pubmed, the Cochrane Library and EMBASE using terms relating to manipulation, movement and the spine. Selection of articles was made according to specific criteria by two independent reviewers. Two checklists were created based on the needs of the present review. Articles were independently reviewed by two reviewers. Articles were given quality scores and the data synthesized for each region treated in the literature. Findings were summarized in tables and reported in a narrative fashion.
Fifteen articles were retained reporting on experiments on the neck, lumbar spine, hip and jaw. The mean quality score was 71/100 (ranges 33/100 - 92/100). A positive effect of SMT was reported in both studies where mouth opening was assessed after cervical manipulation. In five of the nine studies on cervical ROM a positive effect was reported, whereas the remaining four studies did not show improvement. None of the three studies of the lumbar spine showed an effect of SMT on lumbar ROMs and one study of sacroiliac manipulation reported no effect on the ROM of the hip joint.
In relation to the quality score, the seven highest ranked studies, showed significant positive effects of SMT on ROM. Continuing down the list, the other studies reported no significant differences in the outcomes between groups.
SMT seems sometimes to have a small effect on ROM, at least in the cervical spine. Further research should concentrate on areas of the spine that have the potential of actually improving to such a degree that a change can be easily uncovered.
Studies of back pain are typically based on the assumption that symptoms from different parts of the spine are distinctive entities. Recently, however, the assumption that back pain is a site-specific disorder has been challenged, suggesting that localized back pain should be seen as part of a general musculoskeletal syndrome.
To describe and compare the patterns of reporting of pain and consequences of pain in the three spinal regions.
In all, 34,902 (74%) twin individuals representative of the general Danish population, aged 20 to 71, participated in a cross-sectional nation-wide survey. Identical questions from the Standardised Nordic Questionnaire for each of the three spinal regions were used for lumbar, mid-back and neck pain respectively: Pain past year, pain ever, radiating pain, and consequences of back pain (care-seeking, reduced physical activities, sick-leave, change of work/work duties and disability pension). The relative prevalence estimates of these variables were compared for the three spinal regions.
The relative proportions of individuals with pain ever, who also reported to have had pain in the past year varied between 75% and 80%, for the three spinal regions. The proportions of individuals with pain in the past year and for various pain durations were also very similar. Regardless if pain was reported in the lumbar, thoracic or cervical regions, the proportions of individuals reporting radiating pain were equally large. The relative number of consequences was the same across the spinal regions, as were the relative proportions of each these consequences. However, low back pain resulted more often in some kind of consequence compared to the consequences of pain in the neck and mid back.
Back pain and its consequences share many characteristics and may, at least in a general population, be regarded as the same condition regardless of where the pain happens to manifest itself. However, because some exceptions were noted for the lumbar spine, separate entities for a smaller group of individuals with back pain cannot be ruled out.
In order to define the onset of a new episode of low back pain (LBP), the definition of a "non-episode" must be clear. De Vet et al reviewed the scientific literature but found no evidence-based definitions of episodes or non-episodes of LBP. However, they suggested that pain-based episodes should be preceded and followed by a period of at least one month without LBP. As LBP is an episodic disease, it is not clear whether a sufficient number of patients with LBP will be LBP-free for at least one month ("non-episode") to justify the use of this duration in the definition of pain free episode.
Two clinical populations were followed weekly over one year making it possible 1) to determine the maximum numbers in a row of weeks without LBP, 2) to determine the prevalence of non-episodes throughout a one-year period, and 3) to find the prevalence of patients who reported to be in a non-episode of LBP at the end of the study.
Secondary data were used from two recent clinical studies, in which weekly automated text messages (SMSes) had been collected on the number of days with LBP in the preceding week for one year. Weeks with 0 days of LBP were defined as "zero-weeks" and four zero-weeks in a row were defined as a period without LBP (a"non-episode") according to de Vet et al's suggestion. The study participants, all from the secondary care sector, consisted of: study 1) patients with LBP and Magnetic Resonance Imaging-identified Modic changes and study 2) patients without obvious acute disc problems, Modic changes or other pathologies, who therefore were assumed to have non-specific LBP. Both studies were two-armed intervention studies without a significant difference in outcome between intervention groups. The number of zero-weeks was identified in each participant. Thereafter the numbers of participants who reported at least one non-episode during the study period were identified. Finally, the numbers of participants who had a non-episode at the end of the study were counted. Estimates are reported with their 95% confidence intervals.
The numbers of participants included in the analyses were 80 and 209. Most commonly, no zero weeks were reported, by 65% (55-75) and 56% (49-63) of patients, respectively. The percentages of study participants with at least one non-episode at some time during the course of the study were 20% (11-29) and 18% (15-21. The percentages of participants who were identified as being in a non-episode at the time of the last week of the study were, 5% (95% CI: 0-10) and 4% (1-7) respectively.
The vast majority of these secondary care sector patients had a profile of more or less constant LBP. The estimates for non-episodes during the study period and at the end of the study were very similar for participants with LBP who also had Modic changes and those with non-specific LBP. It is possible that a definition of pain-free periods is pointless in patients seeking care in the secondary care sector.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been proven capable of showing inflammatory and structural changes in patients with spondyloarthritis (SpA) and has become widely used in the diagnosis of SpA. Despite this, no systematic reviews evaluate the diagnostic utility of MRI for SpA. Therefore, the objective of this systematic review was to determine the evidence for the utility of MRI in the clinical diagnosis of SpA. The aims were to identify which MRI findings are associated with the diagnosis of SpA and to quantify this association.
MEDLINE and EMBASE were electronically searched. Inclusion criteria were cross-sectional or longitudinal case-control or cohort MRI studies. The studies required a group with either SpA or inflammatory back pain (IBP) and a non-case group without SpA or IBP. Each group required a minimum of 20 participants. The included articles had to report results containing raw numbers suitable for the construction of two-by-two tables or report results by sensitivity and specificity for cross-sectional studies or odds ratios, relative risk ratios, or likelihood ratios for longitudinal studies. Method quality was assessed by using criteria based on the QUADAS tool.
In total, 2,395 articles were identified in MEDLINE and EMBASE before November 2011. All articles were reviewed by title and abstract. Seventy-seven articles were reviewed by full text, and 10 met the inclusion criteria. Two were considered of high quality: one evaluated the sacroiliac joints, and the other, the spine. Because of the small number of high-quality studies, a meta-analysis was not performed. The two high-quality studies found a positive association between MRI findings (bone marrow edema, erosions, fat infiltrations, global assessment of sacroiliitis, and ankylosis) and the diagnosis of IBP and SpA.
In this review, several MRI findings were found to be associated with SpA. However, because of the small number of high-quality studies, the evidence for the utility of MRI in the diagnosis of SpA must be considered limited. Therefore, caution should be taken to ensure that inflammatory and structural MRI findings are not interpreted as being more specific for SpA than is supported by research.
Clinical experience suggests that many patients with Modic changes have relatively severe and persistent low back pain (LBP), which typically appears to be resistant to treatment. Exercise therapy is the recommended treatment for chronic LBP, however, due to their underlying pathology, Modic changes might be a diagnostic subgroup that does not benefit from exercise. The objective of this study was to compare the current state-of-the art treatment approach (exercise and staying active) with a new approach (load reduction and daily rest) for people with Modic changes using a randomized controlled trial design.
Participants were patients from an outpatient clinic with persistent LBP and Modic changes. They were allocated using minimization to either rest therapy for 10 weeks with a recommendation to rest for two hours daily and the option of using a flexible lumbar belt or exercise therapy once a week for 10 weeks. Follow-up was at 10 weeks after recruitment and 52 weeks after intervention and the clinical outcome measures were pain, disability, general health and global assessment, supplemented by weekly information on low back problems and sick leave measured by short text message (SMS) tracking.
In total, 100 patients were included in the study. Data on 87 patients at 10 weeks and 96 patients at one-year follow-up were available and were used in the intention-to-treat analysis. No statistically significant differences were found between the two intervention groups on any outcome.
No differences were found between the two treatment approaches, 'rest and reduced load' and 'exercise and staying active', in patients with persistent LBP and Modic changes.
Not much is known about the French chiropractic profession on, for example, level of consensus on clinical issues.
The first objective was to investigate if French chiropractors' management choices appeared reasonable for various neck problem scenarios. The second objective was to investigate if there was agreement between chiropractors on the patient management. The third objective was to see to which degree and at what stages chiropractors would consider to interact with other health-care practitioners, such as physiotherapists, general practitioners and specialists.
A questionnaire was sent to a randomly selected sample of all French chiropractors known to the national chiropractic college. It consisted of an invitation to participate in the study, a brief case description, and drawings of five stages of how a case of neck pain gradually evolves into a brachialgia to end up with a compromised spinal cord. Each stage offered five management choices. Participants were asked at what stages patients would be treated solely by the chiropractor and when patients would be referred out for second opinion or other care without chiropractic treatment, plus an open ended option, resulting in a "five-by-six" table. The percentages of respondents choosing the different management strategies were identified for the different scenarios and the 95% confidence intervals were calculated. There was a pre hoc agreement on when chiropractic care would or would not be suitable. Consensus was arbitrarily defined as "moderate" when 50- 69% of respondents agreed on the same management choice and as "excellent" when 70% or more provided the same answer. It was expected that inter professional contacts would be rare.
The response rate was 53% out of 254 potential participants. The first two uncomplicated cases would generally have been treated by the chiropractors. As the patient worsened, the responses tended towards external assistance and for the most severe case, the majority of respondents would have referred the patient out. There was excellent consensus for the two extreme cases (the most benign and the most severe), moderate consensus for the cases next to these two and least agreement relating to the "middle" case. Inter-professional collaboration was contemplated mainly for the severe case.
The French chiropractors who participated in this study seem to have a similar approach to patients with neck pain that gradually develops into a brachialgia and worsens. However, it is not known if the large group of non-participants in the study would agree with this treatment strategy.
Modic changes (MCs) have been identified as a diagnostic subgroup associated with low back pain (LBP). The aetiology of MCs is still unknown and there is no effective treatment available. If MCs constitute a specific subgroup of LBP, it seems reasonable to expect different effects from different treatments. The objective of this systematic critical literature review was therefore to investigate if there is evidence in the literature that the presence of MCs at baseline is associated with a favourable outcome depending on the treatment provided for LBP.
The databases MEDLINE and EMBASE were searched for relevant articles from 1984 to December 2010. A checklist including items related to the research questions and quality of the articles was used for data extraction and quality assessment. Of the 1650 articles found, five (six studies) were included in this review but because the studies were so heterogeneous, the results have been reported separately for each study.
The treatments studied were: lumbar epidural steroid injections (n = 1), lumbar intradiscal steroid injections (n = 2), lumbar disc replacement (n = 1), fusion surgery (n = 1) and exercise therapy (n = 1). One of the two studies investigating treatment with intradiscal steroid injections and the study investigating fusion surgery reported that MCs were positively associated with the outcomes of pain and disability. The other study on lumbar intradiscal steroid injections and the study on lumbar epidural steroid injections reported mixed results, whereas the study on lumbar disc replacement and the study on exercise therapy reported that MCs were not associated with the outcomes of pain and disability.
The available studies on the topic were too few and too heterogeneous to reach a definitive conclusion and it is therefore still unclear if MCs may be of clinical importance when guiding or prescribing the 'right' treatment for a patient with LBP.
Several researchers have searched for subgroups in the heterogeneous population of patients with non-specific low back pain (LBP). To date, subgroups have been identified based on psychological profiles and the variation of pain.
This multicentre prospective observational study explored the 6- month clinical course with measurements of bothersomeness that were collected from weekly text messages that were sent by 176 patients with LBP. A hierarchical cluster analysis, Ward's method, was used to cluster patients according to the development of their pain.
Four clusters with distinctly different clinical courses were described and further validated against clinical baseline variables and outcomes. Cluster 1, a "stable" cluster, where the course was relatively unchanged over time, contained young patients with good self- rated health. Cluster 2, a group of "fast improvers" who were very bothered initially but rapidly improved, consisted of patients who rated their health as relatively poor but experienced the fewest number of days with bothersome pain of all the clusters. Cluster 3 was the "typical patient" group, with medium bothersomeness at baseline and an average improvement over the first 4-5 weeks. Finally, cluster 4 contained the "slow improvers", a group of patients who improved over 12 weeks. This group contained older individuals who had more LBP the previous year and who also experienced most days with bothersome pain of all the clusters.
It is possible to define clinically meaningful clusters of patients based on their individual course of LBP over time. Future research should aim to reproduce these clusters in different populations, add further clinical variables to distinguish the clusters and test different treatment strategies for them.
It is generally acknowledged that back pain (BP) is a common condition already in childhood. However, the development until early adulthood is not well understood and, in particular, not the individual tracking pattern. The objectives of this paper are to show the prevalence estimates of BP, low back pain (LBP), mid back pain (MBP), neck pain (NP), and care-seeking because of BP at three different ages (9, 13 and15 years) and how the BP reporting tracks over these age groups over three consecutive surveys.
A longitudinal cohort study was carried out from the years of 1997 till 2005, collecting interview data from children who were sampled to be representative of Danish schoolchildren. BP was defined overall and specifically in the three spinal regions as having reported pain within the past month. The prevalence estimates and the various patterns of BP reporting over time are presented as percentages.
Of the 771 children sampled, 62%, 57%, and 58% participated in the three back surveys and 34% participated in all three. The prevalence estimates for children at the ages of 9, 13, and 15, respectively, were for BP 33%, 28%, and 48%; for LBP 4%, 22%, and 36%; for MBP 20%, 13%, and 35%; and for NP 10%, 7%, and 15%. Seeking care for BP increased from 6% and 8% at the two youngest ages to 34% at the oldest. Only 7% of the children who participated in all three surveys reported BP each time and 30% of these always reported no pain. The patterns of development differed for the three spinal regions and between genders. Status at the previous survey predicted status at the next survey, so that those who had pain before were more likely to report pain again and vice versa. This was most pronounced for care-seeking.
It was confirmed that BP starts early in life, but the patterns of onset and development over time vary for different parts of the spine and between genders. Because of these differences, it is recommended to report on BP in youngsters separately for the three spinal regions, and to differentiate in the analyses between the genders and age groups. Although only a small minority reported BP at two or all three surveys, tracking of BP (particularly NP) and care seeking was noted from one survey to the other. On the positive side, individuals without BP at a previous survey were likely to remain pain free at the subsequent survey.
The STarT back screening tool (SBT) allocates low back pain (LBP) patients into three risk groups and is intended to assist clinicians in their decisions about choice of treatment. The tool consists of domains from larger questionnaires that previously have been shown to be predictive of non-recovery from LBP. This study was performed to describe the distribution of depression, fear avoidance and catastrophising in relation to the SBT risk groups. A total of 475 primary care patients were included from 19 chiropractic clinics. They completed the SBT, the Major Depression Inventory (MDI), the Fear Avoidance Beliefs Questionnaire (FABQ), and the Coping Strategies Questionnaire. Associations between the continuous scores of the psychological questionnaires and the SBT were tested by means of linear regression, and the diagnostic performance of the SBT in relation to the other questionnaires was described in terms of sensitivity, specificity and likelihood ratios.
In this cohort 59% were in the SBT low risk, 29% in the medium risk and 11% in high risk group. The SBT risk groups were positively associated with all of the psychological questionnaires. The SBT high risk group had positive likelihood ratios for having a risk profile on the psychological scales ranging from 3.8 (95% CI 2.3 - 6.3) for the MDI to 7.6 (95% CI 4.9 - 11.7) for the FABQ. The SBT questionnaire was feasible to use in chiropractic practice and risk groups were related to the presence of well-established psychological prognostic factors. If the tool proves to predict prognosis in future studies, it would be a relevant alternative in clinical practice to other more comprehensive questionnaires.
Advice to stay active may not be appropriate for people in manual jobs
While low back pain (LBP) and neck pain (NP) have been extensively studied, knowledge on mid back pain (MBP) is still lacking. Furthermore, pain from these three spinal areas is typically studied or reported separately and in depth understanding of pain from the entire spine and its consequences is still needed.
To describe self-reported consequences of pain in the three spinal regions in relation to age and gender.
This was a cross-sectional postal survey, comprising 34,902 twin individuals, representative of the general Danish adult population. The variables of interest in relation to consequences of spinal pain were: Care-seeking, reduced physical activity, sick-leave, change in work situation, and disability pension.
Almost two-thirds of individuals with spinal pain did not report any consequence. Generally, consequences due to LBP were more frequently reported than those due to NP or MBP. Regardless of area of complaint, care seeking and reduced physical activities were the most commonly reported consequences, followed by sick-leave, change of work, and disability pension. There was a small mid-life peak for care-seeking and a slow general increase in reduced activities with increasing age. Increasing age was not associated with a higher reporting of sick-leave but the duration of the sick-leave increased somewhat with age. Disability pension due to spinal pain was reported exceedingly rare before the age of 50. Typically, women slightly more often than men reported some kind of consequences due to spinal pain.
Most people reporting spinal pain manage without any serious consequences. Low back pain more commonly results in some kind of consequence when compared to NP and MBP. Few age-related trends in consequences were seen with a slight predominance of women reporting consequences.
Vertebral endplate signal changes (VESC), also known as Modic changes, have been reported to be associated with low back pain (LBP). However, little is known about predisposing factors for the development of new VESC. The aim of this study was to investigate the predictive value of lifestyle factors and disc-related magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) findings in relation to the development of new VESC. This prospective observational study included 344 people from the Danish general population who had an MRI and completed LBP questionnaires at the age of 40 and again at 44 years. Potential predictors of new VESC were female gender, disc-related MRI findings (disc degeneration, disc bulges, disc herniation, and other endplate changes) and lifestyle factors [high physical work or leisure activity, high body mass index (BMI), and heavy smoking]. Bivariate and multivariate logistic regressions were used to identify predictors of new VESC. New VESC at the age of 44 appeared in 67 of the 344. The majority (84%) of these new signal changes were type 1 VESC and almost half (45%) were only in the endplate and did not extend into the vertebral body. In the multivariate analysis, lumbar disc levels with disc degeneration, bulges or herniations at 40 were the only predictors of new VESC at age 44. Therefore, the development of new VESC at the age of 44 appears to be based on the status and dynamics of the disc, rather than being the result of gender or lifestyle factors such as smoking and physical load.
Endplate (Modic) changes; Magnetic resonance imaging; General population; Predictors; Lumbar spine
Maintenance care (MC) is relatively commonly used among chiropractors. However, factual information is needed on its indications for use.
This study had two objectives: 1) to describe which role patients' past history and treatment outcome play in chiropractors' decision to use MC in patients with low back pain, 2) to investigate if the chiropractors' clinical/educational background has an effect on the frequency of using MC and their indications for use of MC.
An anonymous questionnaire was sent to all 413 chiropractors practising in Denmark. Its main part consisted of 3 sets of 4 questions relating to one basic case of low back pain. For each case, the chiropractors were asked if they would use MC as they self-defined the term (no/perhaps/yes). There were questions also on gender, age, educational and clinical background, and on the number of MC patients seen by these chiropractors. Their decision to recommend MC was reported. Associations between the demographic variables and 1) the frequency of MC-use and 2) their indications for use of MC were tested through multivariate analysis.
The response rate was 72%. Non-indications for MC were: 1) a good outcome combined with no previous events, or 2) a past history of LBP and gradual worsening with treatment. Indications for MC were a good outcome combined with a previous history of low back pain between once a month and once a year. The mean proportion of MC patients per week were 22% (SD 19), ranging from 0% to 100%. The use of MC was highest among experienced chiropractors, those who were educated in North America, and clinic owners. However, in Denmark most chiropractors graduated before 1999, are educated abroad, whereas most chiropractors thereafter are educated in Denmark. Therefore, we cannot conclude whether this difference relates to education or years of experience. There were no associations detected between demographic variables and the indications for MC.
There is relatively high consensus on when MC should and should not be used. A history of prior low back pain combined with a positive response to treatment encourages the use of MC, whereas no previous history of back pain or a worsening of symptoms discourages the use of MC. There seems to be a difference in the proportional use of MC between chiropractors with more experience educated in North America and those with less experience educated in Denmark.
The routine use of radiology is normally discouraged in patients with low back pain (LBP). Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) provides clinicians and patients with detailed knowledge of spinal structures and has no known physical side effects. It is possible that insight into the pathological changes in LBP patients could affect patient management. However, to our knowledge, this has never been tested. Until June 2006, all patients at our specialised out-patient public clinic were referred for MRI on the basis of clinical indications, economic constraints, and availability of MRI (the "needs-based MRI" group). As a new approach, we now refer all patients who meet certain criteria for routine up-front MRI before the clinical examination (the "routine MRI" group).
The aims of this study were to investigate if these two MRI approaches resulted in differences in: (1) duration of treatment, (2) number of contacts with clinicians, and (3) referral for surgery.
Comparison of two retrospective clinical cohorts.
Files were retrieved from consecutive patients in both groups. Criteria for referral were: (1) LBP or leg pain of at least 3 on an 11-point Numeric Rating Scale, (2) duration of present symptoms from 2 to12 months and (3) age above 18 years. A comparison was made between the "needs-based MRI" and "routine MRI" groups on the outcomes of duration of treatment and use of resources.
In all, 169 "needs-based MRI" and 208 "routine MRI" patient files were identified. The two groups were similar in age, sex, and severity of LBP. However, the median duration of treatment for the "needs-based MRI" group was 160 versus 115 days in the "routine MRI" group (p = 0.0001). The median number of contacts with clinicians for the "needs-based MRI" group was 4 versus 3 for the "routine MRI" group (p = 0.003). There was no difference between the two approaches in frequency of referral for back surgery (p = 0.81). When the direct clinical costs were compared, the "routine MRI" group was less costly but only by €11.
In our clinic, the management strategy of routinely performing an up-front MRI at the start of treatment did reduce the duration of treatment and number of contacts with clinicians, and did not increase the rate of referral for back surgery. Also, the direct costs were not increased.
There is considerable clinician and researcher interest in whether the outcomes for patients with low back pain, and the efficiency of the health systems that treat them, can be improved by 'subgrouping research'. Subgrouping research seeks to identify subgroups of people who have clinically important distinctions in their treatment needs or prognoses. Due to a proliferation of research methods and variability in how subgrouping results are interpreted, it is timely to open discussion regarding a conceptual framework for the research designs and statistical methods available for subgrouping studies (a method framework). The aims of this debate article are: (1) to present a method framework to inform the design and evaluation of subgrouping research in low back pain, (2) to describe method options when investigating prognostic effects or subgroup treatment effects, and (3) to discuss the strengths and limitations of research methods suitable for the hypothesis-setting phase of subgroup studies.
The proposed method framework proposes six phases for studies of subgroups: studies of assessment methods, hypothesis-setting studies, hypothesis-testing studies, narrow validation studies, broad validation studies, and impact analysis studies. This framework extends and relabels a classification system previously proposed by McGinn et al (2000) as suitable for studies of clinical prediction rules. This extended classification, and its descriptive terms, explicitly anchor research findings to the type of evidence each provides. The inclusive nature of the framework invites appropriate consideration of the results of diverse research designs. Method pathways are described for studies designed to test and quantify prognostic effects or subgroup treatment effects, and examples are discussed. The proposed method framework is presented as a roadmap for conversation amongst researchers and clinicians who plan, stage and perform subgrouping research.
This article proposes a research method framework for studies of subgroups in low back pain. Research designs and statistical methods appropriate for sequential phases in this research are discussed, with an emphasis on those suitable for hypothesis-setting studies of subgroups of people seeking care.
Many health science research and review articles end with the words: "More research is needed". However, when it comes to research, it is not as much a question of quantity as of quality. There are a number of important prerequisites before research should be initiated. The three pillars, relevance, quality and ethics should be respected but for a project to be meaningful, it must also be based on plausible rationale.
In evidence-based (informed) practice, one takes into account not only research-based evidence but also clinical expertise and the patients' perspectives. In this paper, we briefly discuss how this should be handled in clinical practice is briefly discussed, using the concept of "traffic lights" (red, yellow, green). We explain how the combination of evidence and plausibility can be used to reach a decision as to whether a treatment or diagnostic procedure is suitable, possible, or unsuitable.
In this thematic series of Chiropractic & Osteopathy a number of reviews are presented, in which the research status of pediatric chiropractic is scrutinized and found wanting. Two important aspects were studied in these reviews: the effect of treatment and safety issues. Two types of problems were identified: the lack of research in general and the lack of research using the appropriate study designs and methodology in particular. Therefore, we discuss the meager research noted in the areas of chiropractic care in children and the clinical consequences this should have. The prerequisites for "more research" are scrutinized and an example given of suitable research programs.
Finally, the important issue of implementation of research findings is covered, emphasizing the responsibility of all stakeholders involved at both the undergraduate and the postgraduate level, within professional associations, and on an individual level.