Study reveals new approach to low back pain diagnosis


A team from the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Manhasset, USA, have discovered a new, personalised approach to diagnosing low back pain. Their research has been published in Arthritis Research and Therapy.

The research has shown that serum levels of the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) vary in individuals with lumbar intervertebral disc disease, and that biomedical profiling of circulating cytokines may assist in refining personalised diagnoses of disc diseases.

Feinstein Institute researchers, in collaboration with Northwell Health—formerly the North Shore-LIJ Health System, Manhasset, USA—clinicians in the departments of neurosurgery and physical medicine and rehabilitation, looked at the biochemical profile of participants with low back pain. They studied cytokines, specifically IL-6, to determine how they influenced the behaviour and pain levels of those with LBP. They also looked at whether body mass index (BMI), symptom duration or age had any effect on those serum levels.

Nadeen Chahine, associate investigator at the Feinstein Institute who led the clinical study, says, “We’re very excited by the results of this clinical study and will continue to study cytokine levels in the future…Exploring the biochemical profile of those who suffer from low back pain will help the 40-80% of sufferers throughout the USA.”

Chahine and her team recruited 133 participants from Northwell Health who suffered from low back pain, as well as a control group. Their findings determined serum levels of IL-6 were significantly higher in subjects with low back pain compared with control participants. Additionally, participants with low back pain due to spinal stenosis or degenerative disc disease also had higher levels than those with intervertebral disc herniation and controls.

Their findings suggest that patients with low back pain have low-grade systemic inflammation and that biochemical profiling of circulating cytokines can assist in diagnosing those with low back pain. This will help low back pain sufferers get the correct diagnosis in a shorter amount of time.