Back pain: errors, innovation and implementation

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Posted on 09 November 2017

Members from the Research Institute for Primary Care and Health Sciences (‘iPCHS’) joined colleagues from the West Midlands Clinical Research Network (‘WMCRN’) and University of Birmingham’s (‘UoB’) Health Economics team for this year’s Society for Back Pain Research Annual General Meeting in Northampton. The event, which took place from 2nd-3rd November 2017, focussed on the errors, innovation and implementation of back pain research.

The Society for Back Pain Research was founded in 1971, and promotes the study of all clinical and scientific aspects of spinal pain, encouraging research into its causes, treatment and prevention.

Members of the society include the full array of clinicians (orthopaedic surgeons, rheumatologists, neurosurgeons, GPs, pain doctors, physiotherapists, nurses, chiropractors and osteopaths, psychologists), and scientists (biochemists, bioengineers, anatomists and epidemiologists, social scientists).

Each year the society hosts scientific meetings where research papers which focus on various aspects of back pain are presented and discussed.

NIHR Professor Nadine Foster was invited to present a plenary session where she discussed the promising new directions from research in low back pain. Professor Foster’s research focuses on the commonest pain conditions in primary care, including low back pain and osteoarthritis. Whilst her research programme utilises many research methods, she has a particular interest in randomised trials through which new treatments and services are tested.

Senior Lecturer Dr Jonathan Hill, Senior Research Fellow Dr Annette Bishop, Statistician Ying Chen, PhD students Dawit Zemedikun and Sarah Harrisson, and NIHR intern Sarah Ely all presented their research during oral presentations. CRN Research Facilitator Yvonne Rimmer also gave an oral presentation and PhD student Hollie Birkenshaw presented a poster of her work. The full programme can be viewed online.

Dr Jonathan Hill took home the Local Investigators award for his presentation ‘Effect of a low back pain risk stratification approach embedded in a quality improvement initiative on patient outcomes and care processes: the MATCH randomised trial’.

Dr Siobhan Stynes was also awarded the prestigious BackCare Medal for the top scoring research paper submitted the previous year for her work on ‘Classification of low back-related leg pain consulters using latent class analysis’.

The event included a presentation of the new National Back Pain and Radicular Pain Pathway, the culmination of several years of work with 30 stakeholder groups in the UK. The new National Pathway includes the Keele STarT Back stratification approach, developed and tested by the Keele back pain research team over the last decade. The event concluded with a lively debate in memory of Prof Gordon Waddell, a pioneer in the treatment and research of back pain who sadly passed away early in 2017. The debate focussed on whether healthcare should target the system, rather than the person with back pain.

Professor Foster commented “Back pain affect 4 out of 5 of us at some point in our lives and is responsible for increasing disability. It is a great privilege to take part in such an engaging event which inspires both healthcare professionals and researchers to consider new ways to tackle back pain and I’m proud to see so many Keele colleagues presenting their research at this event and leading the way for future research innovation and implementation”.