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1.  Triggers for an episode of sudden onset low back pain: study protocol 
Background
Most research on risk factors for low back pain has focused on long term exposures rather than factors immediately preceding the onset of low back pain. The aim of this study is to quantify the transient increase in risk of a sudden episode of low back pain associated with acute exposure to a range of common physical and psychological factors.
Methods/design
This study uses a case-crossover design. One thousand adults with a sudden onset of low back pain presenting to primary care clinicians will be recruited. Basic demographic and clinical information including exposure to putative triggers will be collected using a questionnaire. These triggers include exposure to hazardous manual tasks, physical activity, a slip/trip or fall, consumption of alcohol, sexual activity, being distracted, and being fatigued or tired. Exposures in the case window (0-2 hours from the time when participants first notice their back pain) will be compared to exposures in two control time-windows (one 24-26 hours and another 48-50 hours before the case window).
Discussion
The completion of this study will provide the first-research based estimates of the increase in risk of a sudden episode of acute low back pain associated with transient exposure to a range of common factors thought to trigger low back pain.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-13-7
PMCID: PMC3292970  PMID: 22273001
2.  PACE - The first placebo controlled trial of paracetamol for acute low back pain: design of a randomised controlled trial 
Background
Clinical practice guidelines recommend that the initial treatment of acute low back pain (LBP) should consist of advice to stay active and regular simple analgesics such as paracetamol 4 g daily. Despite this recommendation in all international LBP guidelines there are no placebo controlled trials assessing the efficacy of paracetamol for LBP at any dose or dose regimen. This study aims to determine whether 4 g of paracetamol daily (in divided doses) results in a more rapid recovery from acute LBP than placebo. A secondary aim is to determine if ingesting paracetamol in a time-contingent manner is more effective than paracetamol taken when required (PRN) for recovery from acute LBP.
Methods/Design
The study is a randomised double dummy placebo controlled trial. 1650 care seeking people with significant acute LBP will be recruited. All participants will receive advice to stay active and will be randomised to 1 of 3 treatment groups: time-contingent paracetamol dose regimen (plus placebo PRN paracetamol), PRN paracetamol (plus placebo time-contingent paracetamol) or a double placebo study arm. The primary outcome will be time (days) to recovery from pain recorded in a daily pain diary. Other outcomes will be pain intensity, disability, function, global perceived effect and sleep quality, captured at baseline and at weeks 1, 2, 4 and 12 by an assessor blind to treatment allocation. An economic analysis will be conducted to determine the cost-effectiveness of treatment from the health sector and societal perspectives.
Discussion
The successful completion of the trial will provide the first high quality evidence on the effectiveness of the use of paracetamol, a guideline endorsed treatment for acute LBP.
Trail registration
ACTRN12609000966291.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-11-169
PMCID: PMC2918542  PMID: 20650012
3.  Efficacy of manipulation for non-specific neck pain of recent onset: design of a randomised controlled trial 
Background
Manipulation is a common treatment for non-specific neck pain. Neck manipulation, unlike gentler forms of manual therapy such as mobilisation, is associated with a small risk of serious neurovascular injury and can result in stroke or death. It is thought however, that neck manipulation provides better results than mobilisation where clinically indicated. There is long standing and vigorous debate both within and between the professions that use neck manipulation as well as the wider scientific community as to whether neck manipulation potentially does more harm than good. The primary aim of this study is to determine whether neck manipulation provides more rapid resolution of an episode of neck pain than mobilisation.
Methods/Design
182 participants with acute and sub-acute neck pain will be recruited from physiotherapy, chiropractic and osteopathy practices in Sydney, Australia. Participants will be randomly allocated to treatment with either manipulation or mobilisation. Randomisation will occur after the treating practitioner decides that manipulation is an appropriate treatment for the individual participant. Both groups will receive at least 4 treatments over 2 weeks. The primary outcome is number of days taken to recover from the episode of neck pain. Cox regression will be used to compare survival curves for time to recovery for the manipulation and mobilisation treatment groups.
Discussion
This paper presents the rationale and design of a randomised controlled trial to compare the effectiveness of neck manipulation and neck mobilisation for acute and subacute neck pain.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-8-18
PMCID: PMC1810535  PMID: 17324291
4.  Prognosis of chronic low back pain: design of an inception cohort study 
Background
Although clinical guidelines generally portray chronic low back pain as a condition with a poor prognosis this portrayal is based on studies of potentially unrepresentative survival cohorts. The aim of this study is to describe the prognosis of an inception cohort of people with chronic low back pain presenting for primary care.
Methods/Design
The study will be an inception cohort study with one year follow-up. Participants are drawn from a cohort of consecutive patients presenting with acute low back pain (less than 2 weeks duration) to primary care clinics in Sydney, Australia. Those patients who continue to experience pain at three months, and are therefore classified as having chronic back pain, are invited to participate in the current study. The cohort will be followed up by telephone at baseline, 9 months and 12 months after being diagnosed with chronic low back pain. Recovery from low back pain will be measured by sampling three different outcomes: pain intensity, interference with function due to pain, and work status. Life tables will be generated to determine the one year prognosis of chronic low back pain. Prognostic factors will be assessed using Cox regression.
Discussion
This study will determine the prognosis of chronic non-specific low back pain in a representative cohort of patients sourced from primary care. The results of this study will improve understanding of chronic low back pain, allowing clinicians to provide more accurate prognostic information to their patients.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-8-11
PMCID: PMC1800846  PMID: 17288586
5.  Prognosis of acute low back pain: design of a prospective inception cohort study 
Background
Clinical guidelines generally portray acute low back pain as a benign and self-limiting condition. However, evidence about the clinical course of acute low back pain is contradictory and the risk of subsequently developing chronic low back pain remains uncertain. There are few high quality prognosis studies and none that have measured pain, disability and return to work over a 12 month period. This study aims to provide the first estimates of the one year prognosis of acute low back pain (pain of less than 2 weeks duration) in patients consulting primary care practitioners. A secondary aim is to identify factors that are associated with the prognosis of low back pain.
Methods/Design
The study is a prospective inception cohort study. Consecutive patients consulting general medical practitioners, physiotherapists and chiropractors in the Sydney metropolitan region will complete a baseline questionnaire regarding their back pain. Subsequently these patients will be followed up by telephone 6 weeks, 3 months and 12 months after the initial consultation. Patients will be considered to have recovered from the episode of back pain if they have no pain and no limitation of activity, and have returned to pre-injury work status. Life tables will be generated to determine the one year prognosis of acute low back pain. Prognostic factors will be assessed using Cox regression.
Discussion
This study will provide the first estimates of the one year prognosis of acute low back pain in a representative sample of primary care patients.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-7-54
PMCID: PMC1543628  PMID: 16790069
6.  Manipulative therapy and/or NSAIDs for acute low back pain: design of a randomized controlled trial [ACTRN012605000036617] 
Background
Acute low back pain is a common condition resulting in pain and disability. Current national and international guidelines advocate general practitioner care including advice and paracetamol (4 g daily in otherwise well adults) as the first line of care for people with acute low back pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) are advocated in many guidelines as second line management options for patients with acute low back pain who are not recovering. No studies have explored the role of NSAIDs and/or SMT in addition to first line management for acute low back pain. The primary aim of this study is to investigate if NSAIDs and/or SMT in addition to general practitioner advice and paracetamol results in shorter recovery times for patients with acute low back pain. The secondary aims of the study are to evaluate whether the addition of SMT and/or NSAIDs influences pain, disability and global perceived effect at 1, 2, 4 and 12 weeks after onset of therapy for patients with significant acute low back pain.
Methods/design
This paper presents the rationale and design of a randomised controlled trial examining the addition of NSAIDs and/or SMT in 240 people who present to their general practitioner with significant acute low back pain.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-6-57
PMCID: PMC1298305  PMID: 16280089
7.  Advice or exercise for chronic whiplash disorders? Design of a randomized controlled trial 
Background
Whiplash-associated disorder (or "whiplash") is a common condition incurring considerable expense in social and economic terms. A lack of research on effective therapy for patients with chronic whiplash associated disorders prompted the design of the current study. The primary aim of this randomised controlled trial is to determine the effects of a physical activity program for people with chronic (symptoms of > 3 months duration) whiplash. A secondary aim is to determine if pain severity, level of disability and fear of movement/(re)injury predict response to a physical activity program.
Methods / Design
This paper presents the rationale and design of a randomised controlled trial examining the effects of advice and individualized sub-maximal exercise programs in the treatment of whiplash associated disorders.
Discussion
This paper highlights the design, methods and operational aspects of a significant clinical trial in the area of whiplash and chronic pain.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-4-18
PMCID: PMC194710  PMID: 12932301
Whiplash; Exercise; Advice; Therapy; Neck Pain; Disability.

Results 1-7 (7)