A Research Task Force convened by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Pain Consortium have introduced a set of proposed research standards to help in comparing the results of chronic low back pain (cLBP). The task force states that standardized research methods are needed to make greater progress toward reducing the burden and high costs of cLBP. According to a Newswise news report, a number of different treatments for cLBP have been developed and tests; however, few have shown substantial, long-term reduction in pain with improvement in functioning.

The Task Force report notes, “Researchers use varied inclusion criteria, definitions, baseline assessments, and outcome measures, which impede comparisons and consensus.” In order to address this issue, the group followed a structured approach to developing a set of standards for cLBP research, with key issues including defining the problem of cLBP, assessing its impact on patients’ lives, defining the best outcomes to evaluate treatment effectiveness, and identifying the minimum dataset that should be collected in cLBP research.

The report indicates that for “definition,” research consistency begins with a standard definition of the problem, and the task force recommendation for “impact” includes focusing on how back pain affects patients’ lives by suggesting a nine-item cLBP impact score. For the issue of “minimum dataset,” a key task was to define a minimum set of data to be gathered for any cLBP study, and in “future research” the group suggests developing and testing new combined outcome measures as an essential part of future research.

The Task Force members hope their recommended standards reflect the “complex, intertwined factors” affecting the development and clinical course of cLBP, as indicated on the Newswise news report. Though the authors note that recommendations are in need of further validation and refinement, they write, “As adopted by NIH, these recommendations have the potential to standardize methods for identifying cLBP research cases, describing research subjects, and comparing published reports.”

Source: Wolters Kluwer Health: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, Newswise