NIH Low Back Pain Standards

Research into lower back pain, especially when it comes to clinical trials, can be difficult to evaluate when the criteria for one study varies considerably with the standards used to evaluate data for another study. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) hopes to correct those inconsistencies with new low back pain standards designed to lead to more uniform research practices, results and, most importantly, patient treatments.

Difficulty Comparing Studies

One of the major barriers in finding effective treatments for lower back pain has been the difficulty in comparing various studies due to inconsistent outcome measures and terminology. For instance, one study may include patients experiencing any type of recurring lower back pain or discomfort lasting more than a few weeks, while another clinical trial may only consider patients whose back pain became serious enough to require medical intervention.

Uniform Minimal Data

The NIH Pain Consortium task force included experts spanning multiple disciplines from outside research institutes. The main purpose of the NIH recommendations is to set uniform standards among the various studies performed each year. The NIH has expressed hope that set standards may lead to research that can be better interpreted and applied on a broader level. The recommendations include data collection questions meant to assess the following criteria:

  • Length of time a patient has been experiencing lower back pain
  • Functional limitations resulting from low back pain
  • Treatments used and the results of those treatments
  • Effects of various factors (i.e., mood, sleep)

According to NIH estimates, lower back pain affects about 100 million Americans, resulting in medical costs exceeding $600 billion annually. While researchers are not required to use the new low back pain standards, the NIH is encouraging widespread implementation to boost research progress when it comes to translating findings into useful techniques that can help patients find relief from lower back pain through more effective treatments.

For more information about low back pain treatments, reach out to the conservative Santa Monica spine surgeons at The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration. Involved in some of the industry’s cutting-edge clinical studies, our spine specialists are helping to pave the way for innovative back pain treatment options. Find out more by calling us today at 310-828-7757.