Chronic low-back pain research standards announced by NIH task force


The National Health Institute (NIH) Task Force on Research Standards for Chronic Low-Back Pain has published new back-pain research standards.

At the core of the task force’s recommendations is a standard set of data collection questions, or a uniform minimal dataset, intended to increase consistency among studies. The data collection questions include assessing length of time a patient has been experiencing low-back pain, asking about functional limitations, use of various treatment approaches, and impact on a variety of factors such as mood and sleep. A peer-reviewed article detailing the work of the task force and the resulting recommendations and dataset was published in The Journal of Pain (which led the peer-review process), The Clinical Journal of Pain, European Spine Journal, Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, Pain Medicine, Spine, and The Spine Journal.

“The development of a uniform minimal dataset is a major step to driving strong science around low-back pain,” says Josephine P Briggs, director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and NIH Pain Consortium Executive Committee member. “We are hopeful that these research standards will help ensure that the science can be translated into better clinical care.”

“We encourage all researchers who study low-back pain to utilise these standards in their research efforts,” said Stephen I Katz, director of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). “With the adoption of a more uniform research approach, we hope to see greater and faster progress for preventing and treating this condition.”

The NIH Pain Consortium convened the Task Force on Research Standards for Chronic Low-Back Pain with 16 invited experts from varied disciplines and from scientific and research institutions outside NIH. The task force was charged with addressing the challenge of comparing data across different studies.

The work of the task force was facilitated by a 12-member NIH Steering Committee led by Partap Khalsa of NCCAM and James Panagis of NIAMS. In addition to the journal articles, the task force has released a full report of its activities with its recommendations on standards and the uniform minimal dataset on the NIH Pain Consortium website.